November 30, 1939 – the Winter War begins

On November 30, 1939, the Soviet Union attacked Finland by land, sea, and air, with no declaration of war. Despite being badly outnumbered and short of everything from shells to anti-tank guns, the Finnish army held on for 105 days. The David-and-Goliath story caught the attention of the world and hundreds of foreign correspondents converged on Helsinki. The Finns sought help from Britain, France, and America, and their Scandinavian neighbours. Help did arrive in the form of volunteers, medical personnel, and offers to take in Finnish children, but the expeditionary force planned by Britain and France was too late, and Finland bowed to an armistice with Moscow in March 1940, forcing her to cede large parts of Karelia to Russia. 450,000 Karelians had to be evacuated and re-settled.  Here is the Winter War in photos. (all photos courtesy of the Finnish War Archives, unless otherwise noted).

FinNALA promotes Finnish-North American literature

The Finnish North American Literature Association (FinNALA) is a worthy organization that promotes and supports Finnish-Canadian and Finnish-American writers and publishers across the continent. They also publish a magazine called Kippis.

Their president, Beth Virtanen, PhD, who is also the editor of Kippis, recently wrote a very kind review of my novel Lost Ground. Here is an excerpt from it:

“Ulla Jordan’s 2015 work, Lost Ground, is spectacular. It presents a heart-wrenching portrayal of love and loss amidst the backdrop of the Winter War. In this historical fiction, she brings to life the human emotions and trials inherent in a circumstance of Finnish national duress during which a sizable portion of land was lost to Russia, an invading power that significantly out-manned Finland’s small size and proportionately smaller military.
The protagonist, wealthy and well-educated Tina Björnström, is torn between her love for a poor soldier of the Finnish working class and that for an American reporter covering the war in Europe. The narrative thread acquaints the reader with the struggles of average Finnish people during the war, both at home and on the battle field, as well as the perspective from abroad as it is represented by the journalist’s point of view. The narrative structure provides readers with a complex view of this troubling time… As the story unfolds, the reader experiences through the text the hopes and fears of Finns throughout the historic period…The plotline shares Finland’s unique history, putting a personal face to it via the characters in the story… From the book we come away with a deeper knowledge of what drives the Finnish ethnic character.
This book is gripping, a must-read, for the history and the storyline, but more so for the rendering of this particular version of the human condition. Those who know what sisu is will realize more certainly its significance as a consequence of the read.”

Review by Beth L. Virtanen, Ph.D., Editor in Chief of Kippis! and president of the Finnish North American Literature Association. With her doctorate in Rhetoric and Technical Communication, she is Professor and Assistant Program Director in English at South University Online. Critically, she writes about equity and access in education. Creatively, she is a poet, fiction writer, and occasional essayist.

Blonde cargoes: Finnish children in the slave markets of medieval Crimea

Another sad chapter in the history of the beleaguered Finns of Karelia, the borderland between West and East

A Blast From The Past

Testing a female captive's teeth in an eastern slave market. Testing a female captive’s teeth in an eastern slave market.

The horrors of the trans-Atlantic slave trade have left an ineradicable mark on history. In the course of a little more than three and a half centuries, 12.5 million prisoners – at least two-thirds of them men destined for a life of labour in the fields – were shipped from holding pens along the African coast to destinations ranging from Argentina in the south all the way north to Canada. It was the largest forced migration in modern history.

When we think of slavery, we tend to think of this African traffic. Yet it was not the only such trade – nor was it, before 1700, even the largest. A second great market in slaves once sullied the world, this one less well-known, vastly longer-lasting, and centred on the Black Sea ports of the Crimea. It was a huge trade in its own right; in its great years, which lasted roughly from…

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Putin will invade Baltics only if he has nowhere else to invade?

This analysis suggests that NATO membership is indeed the deterrent preventing a repeat of 1940 in the Baltic states. This is a deterrent Finland does not have.

What would Putin have to fear by invading Finland? Not much.