Written by Mauri Rastas, 08.07.2003

How got Finland involved with the Second World War?

Particularly: why in certain collaboration with Nazi-Germany?
Questions, answers, reasons and backgrounds

Many foreign investigators of the recent Finnish history have made some very essential questions about the politics of Finland before and during the Second World War (=WW2). The following text is a collection about the different awswers for the question.

What is the general attitude of the Finnish to the WW2?

Finland in WW2 and its relations with Nazi-Germany, is one of the most important and interesting pieces of the Finnish history. The WW2 still lives in the Finnish souls through the war veteran activities and ever-open Karelian question by the people who, like the writer, lost their homes in the treaties in 1940 and 1944 with the Soviet Union.

What main activities, operations and warfare did Finland conduct during WW2?

Two crucial definitions must be done in the Finnish war history:
1.) Winter War 1939-40 was Soviet Union's direct aggression against the Finnish independence.
2.) Continuation War 1941-44 (continuation regarding the Winter War) began with a collaboration with Nazi-Germany and ended with the war against it.

How did Finland manage in the Winter War?

Finland was materially alone against the mighty military power, well - got a lot of sympathy. In the peace agreement 1940 Finland could maintain its independence, though the Soviet Union took the Finnish province of Karelia. The agreement was the only realistic way to keep the target, to be independent.

Could the Winter War have been avoided?

NO! There were no possibilities to accept the Soviet Union's demands before the war's breaking out, the Finnish were so determined in the matter, and the Soviet kept its demands valid because it was the superpower's imago in question.
Some leftside politicians say that Finland (government and people together!) was stupid when it, to avoid the war, didn't accept Soviet Union's demands. Counter-argument is that the war could have been postponed only.
But, no one knows what could have been happened in those hypothetical cases.

How much did England back up Finland during the Winter War?

UK's support was quite selfish. UK's idea to send military units to protect Finland was mainly aimed to prevent Germany to use Swedish iron, and Finnish nickel ore, and Norwegian coast as military bases for Atlantic operations.

Why didn't Finland accept support from the Allied during the Winter War?

The Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact of August 1939 was valid. England and France planned to send some real military help to Finland, but Sweden and Norway did not give any transit permission. A fear existed too, the whole Finland would become a battlefield. Those troops were clearly too small to prevent Soviet Red Army's advance militarily, but, of course, politically it would have been an epoch-making happening. If Finland had said "yes", the world situation would have been completely different: the Soviet Union in a real war against the Western countries!

What happened between the Winter and Continuation Wars?

The "peace period" 1940-41 was a very difficult time for Finland. The Soviet Union put a strong political pressure against Finland, including Petsamo nickel ore findings - Soviet, Nazis and the British wanted the ore. Soviet Forces shot down a Finnish civil airliner etc. In August 1940 Finland got a lot of foreign intelligence messages that the Soviet Union concentrates military forces behind the border and shall invade Finland in near future - well, no invasion occured.

In November 1940 the Soviet Commissar of Foreign Affairs, Mr. V. Molotov visited Berlin. His main object in the negotiations there was that the Soviet Union must get finally free hands with Finland. But Mr. Hitler said: nein. Well - the preparings for The Operation Barbarossa (i.g. invasion eastwards) were in full speed, and Nazis included Finland to their most certain collaborators because of:
a.) the obvious huge bitterness of the Finnish caused by the Winter War and
2.) a great fear of the Soviet Union caused by the Soviets' continuous pressure and threat.

Was Finland an aggressor?

A Finnish historian describes the Finnish operations that Finland's foreign policy and warfare was defensive and unscrupulous in order to maintain the independence.
Unscrupulous indeed - because Finland saw in 1940-41 that the only military power, strong and near enough, which could help us to defend against the very frightening pressure from the Soviet Union, was Germany, though now under the Nazi regime.

Why a collaboration with Nazi-Germany?

Finland's collaboration with Nazi-Germany is naturally the weakest moral point in the Finnish political history. But there are many circumstances and backgrouds which make Finnish activities more understandable, and hopefully acceptable.

How was it possible to end the Continuation War without an occupation?

Yet unscrupulous, when Finland made a preliminary peace agreement in 1944 with the Soviet Union. According to the terms of agreement, Finland pushed still strong Nazi-German forces out from the Northern Finland.

At which practical level was the collaboration with Nazis made?

The collaboration with Nazis was quite unique. E.g. Finland refused to attack or bomber Leningrad. The amount of supporters of Nazi-ideology was very low indeed. Finland had no aggression against the Jewish people in Finland - e.g. there were Jewish officers in the Finnish Army.

Finland had to make some minor favours for the Nazis because the Nazis blackmailed Finland with the lack of corn (after the war a decision was made that Finland must produce all needed corn by itself (and caused agricultural overproduction later).

What about Nazi symbols, e.g. swastika used in Finland?

Swastika is many thousand years old. The writer saw e.g. one in India meaning an old mark bringing good luck. In Finland it was already used in 1918 in Finnish war planes. In Germany, Nazi-party leader, Mr. Hitler began to use swastika as party's mark in 1919. So - no one Finland could be a copier but, on the other hand, Mr. Hitler hardly copied the swastika from Finland.

Was Finland's strategic warfare always succesful?

The big error made by the Finnish was that the Finnish Army conquered a big part of (Russian) East-Karelia in 1941, in other words, the Army went there over the border of before-the-war-Finland.
It was a political mistake causing an internationally negative image about the Finnish collaboration with Nazis.
It was a military mistake too, because the invasion demanded a lot of blood and the conquered area was quickly emptied in 1944 when the Soviet Union surprised the Finnish Army by making a really massive attack in Karelian Isthmus.

What about the military and political operations in 1944?

The situation, caused by the Soviet Army attack in 1944, was critical. Finland needed modern weapons against the massive crowds of Soviet tanks. A help in the form of air combat forces was needed too. Mr. Ribbentrop from the Reich came to Helsinki and made an agreement with the Finnish President. In it the military help was received with the President's promise not to withdraw from the warfare. Soviet Army's attack was finally stopped in extremely heavy battles in Karelia.

Now comes out the Finnish unscrupulousness again. The Finnish government constructed knowingly the Ribbentrop paper 1944 so that it tied the President only - entirely personally. When the Soviet attack calmed down later in 1944, the undersigned President resigned, and the government was free to start to seek contacts with the Soviet government in order to achieve the peace. Of course, the Nazis were furious because they considered they were cheated, and as a revenge the Nazis destroyed unscrupulously the northern Finland during the Nazi-contra-Finland war in 1944-45.

Should the Finnish be ashamed of the collaboration with Nazis?

When one can blame Finland that it should be ashamed of the collaboration with Nazi-Germany, one can see the situation as the same when the Western countries, USA, UK etc. gave a huge material support to Soviet though they knew which kind of administration existed in the Soviet Union.

How well did Finland regarding all the war time difficulties?

Finland achieved well its wartime goal - independence - in spite of the frequent desperate situations. Finland was free and independent, Finland was not even occupied, but the human and material losts were high. In Europe there is only three war-attendant capital cities which were not occupied during the war, London, Moskow and Helsinki.

What about Finland's politics after the WW2, e.g. "finlandization"?

The Finnish think that the "finlandization"-stamp is not fair regarding the ordinary Finnish people. The Finnish government realized that is was practical to follow those "advise" from Moskow which were relatively easy to fulfil. An extra benefit was good economical relations with the Soviet Union: i.g. Finland buys raw material and delivers back HiTech products, and no actual money was used in the trade.
But if such came out where the Finnish sovereignty was threatened, Finland was determined: no!, e.g. to have military exercises where Finland and the Soviet Union were together: no!.

When one blames that Finland was "finlandized" after the WWII, one can see that the Western countries were "finlandized" too, because they did not dare to limit Soviet's might when Soviet kept East-European "people's democratic" countries under Soviet regime though there was a vast desire for freedom in those countries.