Why didn't USSR occupied Finland in 1944?

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cipiao
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Why didn't USSR occupied Finland in 1944?

Post by cipiao » 27 Mar 2005 20:34

Why didn't USSR occupied all Finland in 1944, but instead allowed a truelly free state to go on, have only reoccupied the territories it had taken in the Winter War? It was not the military power of Finland, even considering the brave armed forces Finland had and all its military capabilities, wich were very good, but the super-power, that USSR was by 1944, could have occupied the country...so why not?

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Post by Mikko H. » 27 Mar 2005 21:34

Here's something I wrote, years ago, in answer for this question:

The short answer: Stalin didn't want a revolution in Finland unless the Finnish communists could effect one themselves, without Soviet help. And the Finnish communists were unable to make a revolution without Soviet tanks rolling into Helsinki.

Well, why was this so?

First, why were the Finnish communists unable to take power by themselves? There are several reasons, the following being the most important.

1) The Social Democratic Party (SDP) remained the largest working class party, and it remained staunchly anti-communist. And the bourgeous Agrarian League retained the support of the great majority of peasant small-holders. The first post-war parliamentary elections were held on 17 and 18 March 1945, and the results were as follows:

Social Democratic Party 50 seats (out of 200)
Finnish People's Democratic League (communists & fellow-travellers) 49 (38 of them communists)
Agrarian League (centrist) 49
National Coalition Party (conservative) 28
Swedish People's Party (rightist language minority interest party) 15
National Progress Party (liberal) 9

The communists had done well, but not nearly as well as they hoped, and what's more important, they could get no support for any revolutionary exercises from any other parties. And there remained 101-99 bourgeous majority in the Parliament.

In the next parliamentary elections three years later, held on 1 and 2 July 1948, the communist support collapsed:

Social Democratic Party 54 (+4 seats)
Finnish People's Democratic League 38 (-11)
Agrarian League 56 (+7)
National Coalition Party 33 (+5)
Swedish People's Party 14 (-1)
National Progress Party 5 (-4)

The great majority of voters rejected communists in both elections, and gave their support to the 'old' parties. Although the communists were given ministerial posts in 1945, they were alone and unsuccesful in their attempts to effect any purges (except in the Security Police, but more on that later) or drastic alterations of constitution. After their defeat in 1948, they were left outside the cabinet. The Social Democrats, as said, remained (after some internal struggles) anti-communist and retained the majority of working class support.

2) Finland has, since the end of the Civil War in May 1918, been a stable and working democracy (unlike Poland, Hungary or Rumania), and the democratic traditions were deeply entrenched in the minds of the great majority of population. Even during the war years of 1939-44 the parliament and political system has worked, with certain restrictions imposed by the war. Any attempts to violently alter the society and political system would, to put it mildly, been frowned upon. Even the majority of rank and file communists did not want revolution, but better standards of living.

Yes, there had been some disturbances by the ultra left in early 1920s, but these were organized by Finnish emigrant communists from USSR, and had no significance. In late 1920s and early 1930s the proto-fascist Lapua movement had organized anti-socialist violence, and actually managed to effect the passing of anti-communist laws in 1930, which effectively banned communism in Finland. But afterwards the Lapua movement badly overreached by trying to force the banning of Social Democratic Party, and by the time it joined the farcical Mäntsälä rebellion in 1932, its support was already in wane. The government reacted firmly to the rebellion by sending the Army (which had always remained faithfully out of politics) to contain it, and the whole affair ended peacefully without bloodshed. The only result was that the Lapua movement was banned.

3) Communism and USSR had permanently discredited itself in the eyes of majority of Finns by attacking Finland in 1939. There were no sympathy for the USSR for its victory over Nazism (unlike in Czechoslovakia where people had felt betrayed by the West in 1938), only bitter resentment for the territorial losses Finland had suffered in 1940 and 1944. It did not help that the USSR insisted almost until its end in 1991 that Finland had started the Winter War. The Finnish communist leadership took in Fenno-Soviet disputes always the Soviet side, thus revealing themselves in the eyes of the people for the fifth-columnists they were.

4) The Finnish government made it clear from the beginning that any disturbances would be firmly met by the police and (if necessary) by the Army. Both the police and defence forces remained unpurged, and their men faithful to the lawful government. The communists tried to effect the purge of both forces, but could get no support from the other parties.

However, the communists managed to take over the Security Police in 1945, which was soon purged and staffed by reliable communists. But just being a reliable communist did not mean that man was automatically a good detective. The communist Security Police was a very inept organ, and it was widely detested among the non-communist circles because of its mispractices. It was disbanded in 1949, and replaced by the smaller (and non-communist) Protection Police.

5) As mentioned earlier, the rank and file Finnish communists did not want revolution, but better standards of living. It has often been wondered how there were so many communists in Finland after everything USSR had done. The answer is simple. Finnish communism was essentially not a pro-Soviet movement, but a protest movement that demanded better conditions for the lower classes. No matter what the communist leadership preached and believed, the rank and file communists wanted improvement not by revolution, but by evolution. The Molotov-Ribbentrop Treaty of 1939 had been a very bitter pill indeed for all the Finnish communists, and nearly all of them fought loyally against the Red Army during the Winter War 1939-40. Most of them fought against USSR also in the Continuation War of 1941-44.

6) There remains one last point, and it's the most intriguing one. As the foremost authority on Finnish communism, historian Kimmo Rentola has noted, the leadership of the Finnish communists in the post-war years was composed of middle-aged men and women, people who had families and had just recently emerged from prisons, undergroud or come back from USSR. Their lives were in phases where people just don't make revolutions! Their lives had just achieved the security and stability they had sought for so long, and making a violent (and in all probability unsuccesful) revolution would destroy all they had just achieved in their private lives. And probably there remained in their consciousness, searing but unspoken, the memory of Stalinist purges. Great majority of the communist leaders had lost friends and relatives, and lived themselves in the constant fear of the NKVD. Kimmo Rentola has likened the impact of the purges on Finnish communism to the impact incest has on a family. Nobody speaks of it, but it haunts the people it has affected to the end of their lives. It is interesting to note that the communist hotheads who in 1945 demanded immediate and violent revolution, were mostly men who had spent the war in Finnish prisons and had no idea of Soviet reality.

These are the most important reasons why the Finnish communists were unable to make revolution without the Soviet help. But why didn't Stalin give that help? Why didn't the Red Army occupy Finland and put the communists in power?

1) As the Soviets very well knew, the Finnish Army remained an effective fighting force. After the Soviet offensive on 9 June 1944, the following two weeks were certainly not the most glorious chapter in the history of Finnish Army. But what was most important is that the Finnish Army retreated in orderly fashion and remained intact and undefeated in the field. In the fierce battles of late June and early July 1944 the Red Army was fought to standstill, and despite its efforts, Red Army was unable to occupy Finland. As late as early August 1944 two Soviet divisions were encircled and destroyed in northern Karelia near Ilomantsi. Fully mobilized, Finnish Defence Forces fielded 450 000 experienced men. As Stalin himself in 1948 said to a surprised Finnish delegation: "Nobody respects a country with a weak army. Everybody respects a country with a strong army. I propose a toast to the Finnish Army!"

Occupying Finland would have meant for the USSR bloody war right after the devastations of WWII at the time Cold War was beginning. In all probability it would have been similar experience like Chechenia is for Russia today. When the Continuation War ended in September 1944, a group of Finnish general staff officers (with Mannerheim's unspoken approval - that's plausible deniability 40 years before Iran-Contra!) began secretly to organise weapon caches around Finland. They were meant to be used to support large-scale guerilla warfare if USSR tried to occupy Finland. This so-called Weapon Caches Case became soon public and offical investigations began (conducted, of course, by the communist Security Police). For the Soviets it was yet another evidence that if they tried to occupy Finland, they had to pay dearly. Decades later, Molotov told to a party historian: "It was a very wise decision [not to occupy Finland]. It would have been a bleeding wound in our side! The people there, they are very stubborn, very stubborn."

2) Especially after the sovietisation of Czhechoslovakia in 1948, it was important for the USSR to show to the West that it could live side by side with a smaller capitalist state. Thus Finland acted as something like showpiece of East-West relations. Occupying Finland would have considerably worsened the relations with the West for no gain.

3) Finland was not strategically important country (unlike Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Rumania and Bulgaria who were USSR's buffer against the West). When Finland and USSR in 1948 concluded the Treaty of Friendship, Co-operation and Mutual Assistance, it fulfilled all the security needs of USSR in that part of the world. In this treaty, Finland was bound to remain neutral if "Germany or any power in league with it" attacked USSR, and if similar combination tried to attack USSR through Finnish territory, Finland was bound to resist by all means possible and seek assistance from USSR.

4) By the Peace Treaty of 1944, Finland had to pay 300 million in the uninflated 1938 USD as war reparations. The Soviets were very happy with the quality of products they received as reparations and through normal commerce, and they were important rebuilding the country after the war. Trying to occupy Finland would have meant an end for these deliveries, perhaps permanently.

From these points it clearly emerges that a non-communist Finland was in best interests of post-war USSR. If the Finnish communists were able to take power themselves, good, but as they were manifestly unable to do so, better leave Finland in peace. An attempt to occupy Finland would only mean engaging USSR so soon after the WWII in a messy and costly conflict that would damage its economy and foreign relations.

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Post by Uninen » 28 Mar 2005 00:27

That i think pretty much covers it. :) But tell me is there somewhere a place in the net in which i could read more about VALPO (and maybe SUPO) cause especially the first one has been bit shady to me..

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Re: Why didn't USSR occupied Finland in 1944?

Post by Topspeed » 28 Mar 2005 03:59

cipiao wrote:Why didn't USSR occupied all Finland in 1944, but instead allowed a truelly free state to go on, have only reoccupied the territories it had taken in the Winter War? It was not the military power of Finland, even considering the brave armed forces Finland had and all its military capabilities, wich were very good, but the super-power, that USSR was by 1944, could have occupied the country...so why not?


I think there is a more simple reason; USSR lost all 33 divisions they had planned to use to conquer Finland in 1944. To waste another 30 divisions when there were other more important things to do would have been considered insane even in the USSR.

I don't buy the explanation Finland was not srategically important for USSR; that is why they attacked Finland in the first place in 1939. They priorities had changed possibly.

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Post by Mikko H. » 28 Mar 2005 14:22

Uninen, I don't know about the 'net, but I recommend you read the book Isänmaan puolesta -- Suojelupoliisi 50 vuotta published in 1999. It's an official history of the force, and while a bit academic and dry, certainly worth the read. And besides, AFAIK, there are no other books on the subject.

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Post by Bair » 28 Mar 2005 16:09

think there is a more simple reason; USSR lost all 33 divisions they had planned to use to conquer Finland in 1944


please explain what you mean by that. Where did such brave statements come from? :)

with best regards from sunny Helsinki,

Bair

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Post by JariL » 29 Mar 2005 09:26

Hi,

The bold figures are probably based on simple mathematics. Red Army lost in the Karelian Isthmus 105.000 - 140.000 men for all causes between June 9 and July 15th, 1944. Given the size of the Red Army divisions those days, this would mean that 21-28 divisions lost their sharp end (given that we assume there were 5.000 fighting men per division). On top of these come the losses North of Ladoga. So Topspeed is not necessarily too much off the mark.

Regards,

JariL

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Post by Bair » 29 Mar 2005 12:33

Lost would have meant the fate of the 18th Rifle Division in Winter War as well as others. The divisions that took part in the offensive on the Karelian Isthmus in 1944 were almost immediately replenished with personnel and sent to other fronts. This was a normal practice in the Red Army and in the US Army in the WWII. So in my opinion "30 Red Army divisions spent most of their infantry" would be more correct than saying that "Red Army lost 30 Divisions". Losses of Finnish Army in the offensive of summer 1941 were also somewhere between 30 and 50% of personnel, if you go through war diaries of infantry regiments for that period.

with best regards,

Bair

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Post by Topspeed » 29 Mar 2005 17:07

Bair wrote:please explain what you mean by that. Where did such brave statements come from? :)


Russian history researcher was explaining this 2 months ago in Finland's TV.

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Post by Bair » 29 Mar 2005 18:03

Could you please provide the name of the researcher?

regards,

Bair

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Post by Topspeed » 29 Mar 2005 18:10

I mentioned here also. He was from St. Petersburg. I cannot recall his name any longer. Sorry.
There was nothing new in his findings.
I remember he used term: " 33 divisions....lost lot of blood.....by July 15th 1944 the invasion stopped ".


regards,

topspeed

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Post by Uninen » 29 Mar 2005 20:11

Mikko H.

Thanks, maybe ill hit my local libary with a hope theyll have it.

Regards,
Uninen

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Post by Gregory Deych » 04 Apr 2005 23:12

Those loss figures seem extremely exxagerated. First off the Leningrand Front and Karelian front consisted of only 31 divisions (and 6 rifle brigades - which together are about 33 divisions, and might be where your figure came from), so loss of 30 divisions would've enabled Finns to advance and capture Leningrad. The Karelian front counted 17 thousand irrecoverble losses (dead, wounded severly enough to be discharged and POW) and 46,000 sick and wounded. Leningrad front losses were lower - 6000 irrecoverable losses and 24,000 sick and wounded. If we take the average strength of a Soviet rifle division at 6000 men, we have approximately 4 division equivalents destroyed outright. Clearly the losses were not outsized and are not enough in and of themselves to explain the settlement reached with Finland.

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Post by Harri » 05 Apr 2005 00:08

Guards Divisions were bigger with about 10.000 men. There were initially three of them in Karelian Isthmus. On 9.6.1944 Soviet 21st and 23rd Army of Leningrad Front had about 20 infantry divisions in Karelian Isthmus and the strength of the attacking Soviet forces was about 260.000 men. Finnish true strength was about 87.800 men (usually the full combat strength - 105.000 men - is announced). New Soviet 59th Army with three infantry divisions tried later cross the Bay of Viborg but was repulsed.

Karelian Front consisted of two armies, 7th Army (initially about 143.000 men in four army corps of which one guards' [about ten divisions], later about 123.000 men [94th Army Corps moved away]) which attacked from the Olonets Isthmus and 32nd Army (more than 32.000 men, four infantry divisions) which attacked from Maaselkä Isthmus.

In total 260.000 + 143.000 / 123.000 + 32.000 = 375.000 - 395.000 men. Additionally supplements during the campaign.

Gregory Deych wrote:Those loss figures seem extremely exxagerated.


Not necessarily. Your own figures make 90.000+ men which is about 25% of the total strength.

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Post by Gregory Deych » 05 Apr 2005 02:25

Harri wrote:In total 260.000 + 143.000 / 123.000 + 32.000 = 375.000 - 395.000 men. Additionally supplements during the campaign.

Gregory Deych wrote:Those loss figures seem extremely exxagerated.


Not necessarily. Your own figures make 90.000+ men which is about 25% of the total strength.


But the inclusion of sick and wounded into that number overstates the effect. What were Finnish total casualties, including sick and wounded?

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