Winter War – Finland / Soviet Union

CLERC, Louis. La Guerre Finno-Soviétique (novembre 1939 – mars 1940). Econimica, 2015. 212 p.

The case of Finland during the Second World War has always impressed me, although up to now I have concentrated mainly on the aerialn in particular through the works of Kari Stenman. Wishing to extend a little outside the strictly aerial domain, I sought to document more about the Winter War.

I then stumbled upon this book which quickly attracted me for several reasons:
1 °: It is in French ;
2 °: I am rarely disappointed by the quality of the collection “Campaign and Strategies” of Economia Publications;
3 ° The author is reported at the University of Turku in Finland, which implies access to the country’s archives and documentation, and not only from secondary translated sources. On this point, no disappointment given the very rich bibliography, of which a large part in Finnish.

For the rest, the book is quite classic for this type of military history, I would not return on it.

The big interest lies in some discoveries (at least for me):
1: If the Finnish army fought heroically in view of its means, it is clear that the Winter War ends with a real miracle for the country. At the end of the campaign, the Finnish army is on the brink of complete collapse and it would have been very easy for the Red Army to occupy the country. Fortunately for the Finns, the Soviet leaders are eager to finish.
2: Despite its resistance, the Treaty of Peace is extremely heavy on the territorial plane for Finland. It is far from the semi-victory or honorable defeat often presented. We can easily understand the sequence of events and the alliance with Germany in 1941.
3. Paradoxically this defeat is partially transformed into victory because the country avoids an annexation (or Protectorate) by the USSR. In addition, the memory of this Winter War will push the Soviets to accept a compromise peace in 1944 which will prevent Finland from being fully embraced in the Soviet sphere of influence after the war.
4 °: One is surprised by the weakness of the Scandinavian support in particular Swedish (despite the treaties and promises of pre-war). Finland is clearly left alone.
5 °: It should be noted that the book is not only about the military, but includes many passages on the social structures and the attitude of the population in order to better understand this confrontation from the inside. It is clearly here that one sees the advantage of having an author living on the spot and reading in the local language.
5 °: We will appreciate very much in the end the little put in perspective on the memory of this war in the memory Russian and especially Finnish. Interesting to understand the positions on the political and international level of this country.

Clearly a synthesis of very high quality to apprehend this conflict sometimes forgotten or presented in a very succinct way. And in French in addition.

All that remains is to hope for a follow-up on “The War of Continuation”.

NB: Just two (small) criticisms, the absence of illustration (but it is specific to the collection) and maps relatively unreadable (often zooming in and with a multitude of names of villages or places, not obvious when ‘One does not master local geography).

For information, the book is available on Amazon by clicking on this link (France Shop) or this other link (shop United-Kingdom).


Leave a Reply