Analyst Urges Ukraine To Learn From Finland's War With Russia
Just over 82 years ago, Finnish soldiers ranged against the superior Soviet Red Army achieved a spectacular breakthrough: They defeated the Soviets in the battle for the town of Tolvajarvi in then-Ladoga Karelia.
Photo Insert: The "White Death" Simo Hayha
The Finnish Army’s victory in December 1939 signaled to the Finnish population and the rest of the world that all was not lost—and for 10 more weeks, the Finns kept the Soviets at bay, analyst Elisabeth Braw reported for Foreign Policy.
Today, another small country faces a similar winter war. Ukraine would do well to learn from Finland, which deployed its highly-reputed Ski Division and snipers led by Simo Hayha to mow down Soviet soldiers. Hayha did as told and killed more than 500 soldiers to earn the moniker “White Death.”
Red Army commanders assumed Tolvajarvi would be a cakewalk, just like former Soviet leader Joseph Stalin assumed the entire invasion of Finland would be easy. Finland was, after all, a young country with a precarious economy.
Worse still, its 1917 independence from Russia was followed by a civil war between bourgeois forces known as “Whites” and socialist, in many cases Bolshevik, “Reds.” After several months of intense fighting, the Whites emerged victorious.
In 1939, the Soviets assumed they could capitalize on this. Soon after launching their invasion, they confidently attacked the border town of Tolvajarvi with a division of 20,000 men—along with tanks, cannons, and armored vehicles.
The Finns had some 4,000 rudimentarily equipped men from various units at their disposal.
But for 10 days, the Finns fought back—and they outsmarted the Soviets. Finland eventually negotiated a deal with Russia after realizing that she was losing 1% of her soldiers each day.