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on this day the Battle of Tolvajarvi
became a Finnish Rout. Throughout its history, Finland had struggled to
free itself from the imperialistic influence of her neighbors. In the
Medieval period, Sweden settlers dominated the natives and achieved rule
with the Finnish people being commoners.
During the wars of the eighteenth century known as the Greater Wrath and
Lesser Wrath, Russia, revolutionized after the time of Peter the Great,
occupied Finland. Ultimately, the Finnish War of 1808-9 would wrest
control from Sweden and turn Finland into an autonomous grand duchy within
the rule of the Russian Empire.
Finland would stay under Russian influence for another century until the
Russian Civil War would give way to Finland's independence on December 6,
1917. Relations between the Finnish Republic and the eventual Soviet Union
remained strained. While non-aggression treaties were signed in the 1930s,
Soviet invasion would spark the Winter War on November 30, 1939, as a
side-event to the growing Second World War.
A new story by Jeff ProvineThe nations were scarcely matched: Finland's
army was 30% that of Russia, its air force 3%, and its armored vehicles
1%. While the numbers were overwhelming, the Red Army was still recovering
from Stalin's Great Purge of more than 30,000 officers imprisoned or
executed in 1937. Meanwhile, the Finns held high morale and unbreakable
commitment to resistance. While the Russians had air superiority and
powerful advances with tanks, the Finnish troops had minor victories,
holding the Russians moving northward from Leningrad across the isthmus
between the Gulf of Finland and Lake Ladoga. While the Mannerheim Line
held there, more Russian troops crossed from north of the lakes. The Finns
planned to meet them at Tolvajarvi.
The Finnish battle plan was to use the frozen lakes as points to cross and
attack the oncoming Soviets in a pincer movement. The Finns engaged with
Soviets, who outnumbered them five-to-one. Rather than attempt to press
ahead along the road, the Soviets withdrew. Thinking that he had caught
the Russians unawares, Finnish Colonel Talvela took up pursuit. Despite
taking losses during the retreat, the Russians came under artillery
protection and counterattacked, wiping out the Finnish defenders.
With the harsh victory at Tolvajarvi, the Russians picked up momentum that
would bring them around the lake and encircle the Finnish defenders along
the Mannerheim Line. Helsinki would fall March 13, 1940, and Finland would
be declared part of the Soviet Union. While the quick conquest had been a
military victory, the Finnish people had not yet given up the fight.
Secretly supplied by Hitler's Germany, the Finn resistance would be an
enormous strain on Stalin's manpower and resources. By the time the German
invasion of Russia began with Operation Barbarossa in 1941, the Soviets
would be ill prepared to fight since so many were already working to
The Eastern European Theater would be a bloodbath with Stalin desperately
fighting to keep Hitler from taking Moscow, Stalingrad, and, especially,
Leningrad, whose siege began September 8, 1941. In 1943, Stalin would
proclaim an end to rule over Finland and recall troops to bolster his
defenses. Rising up as a fascist power, the Finns would counterattack,
leading to the fall of Leningrad. In June 1944, Moscow fell, but Stalin
continued fight on, eventually reversing the tide of war back to near the
The Western Front, however, eventually pushed into Germany, and Hitler's
regime fell with the taking of Berlin by General George S. Patton on May
2, 1945. Armistice fell across Central Europe, and Finland's fascist
government collapsed under Soviet pressure. While the Russians did not
occupy much of Eastern Europe, they did take hold of their old Russian
imperial possessions, including Finland. It would not be until after the
end of the Cold War that Finland, then a bleak, backwater economy, would
regain its independence.