Finland’s unique situation

To a casual observer, Finland seems like any other Western European country on the Nordic model, a placid and well-ordered democracy with great schools, great social programs, and great design. But of all the northern democracies, Finland is alone in having a long land border with Russia, and a living memory of being invaded by the Soviet Union.

Finns find it difficult to talk about the Winter War. In November 1939, the Soviet Union attacked Finland, after signing a pact with Nazi Germany three months earlier that carved up eastern Europe into spheres. Unlike the other countries the USSR took under the terms of the pact–the Baltic states, eastern Poland, parts of Romania–Finland put up fierce resistance. Despite the massive advantage of the Red Army over the tiny forces of Finland, the war raged on through the winter. In March, after the threat of Allied intervention became real, Stalin agreed to an armistice. Under its terms, Finland lost 11% of its territory, including the densely populated Karelian Isthmus and the medieval castle city of Viipuri (Vyborg). Nearly half a million Karelians had to be evacuated and resettled.

The Winter War had repercussions for both the Finns and the Russians, and influenced the thinking of Hitler as he planned his attack on the USSR.


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