Go back to Gene Keyes home page

Stalin's Finland Fiasco:
Nonviolent Defense Clues from the Winter War
This posting is an unabridged version of a paper I wrote in July 1972. It comprises a published article,
  • “Stalin’s Finland Fiasco: The Kuusinen Government Reconsidered”,
plus its unpublished 1972 Appendices:

  • Published portion from Crossroads: An International Socio-Political Journal, Number 17, 1985
    •  reformatted in HTML [with additional material 1972] by Gene Keyes, cc 2007-10-26
  • Paper first presented at 1981 Annual Meeting of the International Studies Association, Philadelphia, 1981-03-19

NB: Footnotes will appear, scrolled to the exact place, in the bottom frame, or in a separate window which can stay open if you are not using frames. (If your browser supports frames but does not have one at the bottom, click here.) In either case, the footnotes remain available as part of the article (before the Appendices).

[Part 1: article reprint]
Stalin's Finland Fiasco:
The Kuusinen Government Reconsidered

Gene Keyes

[former Asst. Prof., Political Science, Brandon and St. Thomas Universities]
Independent Scholar
Halifax, Nova Scotia

Abstract    Stalin's attempted conquest of Finland in the 1939-40 Winter War, if successful, would have produced a puppet government—or even a Soviet republic—headed by O. W. Kuusinen. Allusions to the Winter War often cite Stalin's defense-of-Leningrad motive and denigrate the abortive Kuusinen government as a soon-forgotten pratfall. This paper stresses that the so-called "Democratic Republic of Finland" was a very near miss, averted only at the last minute in a complex whirlpool of realpolitik, including the fantastic Anglo-French attempt of March 1940 to invade Sweden and attack the Soviet Union. Unlike the Baltics, Finland fought a legendary war, preserving its democratic government and national integrity, despite large human and territorial losses. Nonetheless, the Finnish experience is compatible with a morale-oriented theory of strategic nonviolent defense against imposition of an alien government.

Crossroads, Number 17
© 1985 International Research Center on Contemporary Society


  p. 27-28


The name Otto W. Kuusinen is not as notorious as János Kádár or Vidkun Quisling. But if things had gone otherwise—and they almost did—he would have headed one of the first of the USSR's communist puppet governments, imposed after an invasion by the Red Army had militarily crushed the existing government. The country was Finland; the year was 1939; the occasion was the Winter War, Russia's frost-bitten Vietnam. According to Joseph Stalin's best-laid plan, Finland was to be the fourth domino in Russia's defensive/offensive strategy against Germany in the Baltic area. In September and October 1939, Foreign Minister Vyacheslav M. Molotov had performed shotgun weddings that brought first Estonia, then Latvia, then Lithuania into the Soviet Union's defense perimeter. The marriages were not consummated with communism—yet. Now the skids were greased for Finland.

This paper reconsiders the Kuusinen menace to Finland as a case history of outright political-military aggression by the Soviet Union. I do so in order to raise questions about strategic nonviolent defense for analogous circumstances. It may seem a futile inquiry, because there could hardly be a more clear-cut case of a democracy facing attempted totalitarian conquest but repulsing it by gallant and brutal warfare. Yet some aspects of the Finnish experience can also provide clues for a morale-oriented theory of strategic nonviolent defense.

When the Red Army crossed the borders on November 30, 1939, what was Stalin's objective? To incorporate Finland into the USSR? To establish a satellite government? Or merely to protect Leningrad and the USSR's northwest defenses by forcibly seizing Finnish buffer territory that could not be secured diplomatically? Outward appearance and closer examination show the same answer: "All of the above." Or, to pose a rhetorical question, was the abortive Kuusinen government a strategy or a tactic, a pratfall or a preview? Likewise, the answer is, "All of the above."

Fears and Spheres

Finland (population 4.7 million now, 3.8 million then) is one of those small, vigorous nations, like Israel, which, because of critical location and skilled leadership and national fiber, has attracted disproportionate attention. Many books have focused

 p. 29

on Finland or on one facet or another of the Winter War and its follow-through (e.g., 1-18, 39, 41, 43), whereas only a handful of titles consider the hapless Baltics (e.g., 30-32).

On August 23, 1939, Finland was assigned to Russia's sphere of influence by the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, as were Estonia and Latvia. Shortly afterward, Poland was dismembered, and Lithuania was added to the Russian sphere. Germany dutifully evacuated thousands of its nationals from the Baltics. With Reich support gone, and with Britain, their erstwhile patron too far and too busy, the three Baltics were now doomed to fall back under Russian domination. In addition, Russia regarded Finland as a Baltic, not a Scandinavian, state.

Joseph Stalin's inexorable gradualism rolled into action. As Louis Fischer put it, "Stalin was a master of dosage, of politics by installments" (25: 372). One by one the fascist governments of the three Baltics were compelled to allow the Soviet Union to garrison them, but with their sovereignty otherwise unimpaired. Whether or not eventual direct annexation was intended all along, it was ostentatiously avoided so far. Strategy and security were clearly the decisive factors; Stalin was boarding up the frontiers and invasion routes against his new German bedfellow. Now that the south shore of the Gulf of Finland was under Russian control, it was time to secure the entire gulf with a naval base on its north shore, on the Finnish coast. Also, Leningrad was so close to the border of Finland as to be within artillery range.

Despite Finland's neutrality and its 1932 nonaggression pact with the Soviet Union, Moscow was fearful that Finland would either go fascist or, in any event, be used as a welcome mat for Big Power aggression aimed at the Soviet Union, putting Leningrad in immediate danger. Andrei Zhdanov had voiced that suspicion in a speech on November 29, 1936, when he mentioned Finland among countries where "we can hear, ever more loudly, the howling of the fascist beasts and the snapping of their jaws" (22: 226). He warned Finland and the Baltics not "to make their territory available for aggressive action by fascist Powers." Although Finland had flirted with domestic fascism in the early 1930s, by 1937 liberal and social democratic elements were well in control. However, two of the figures most cordially hated by

p. 30

the Kremlin were still influential in Finnish politics: the semi-fascist, somewhat Gaullist figure of General Carl Gustaf Mannerheim, then chairman of the Defense Council; and Väinö Tanner, then finance minister and leader of the Social Democrats.

Mannerheim, a former tsarist general, had led the White Guards who, with German help, had crushed the Red Guards in Finland's 1918 civil war. Thousands of the Red sympathizers had then been starved to death or executed. He had gone on to lead Finland into the White fight against Soviet Russia itself before a standoff was arranged in the 1920 Treaty of Dorpat. Tanner was the Bolsheviks' favorite kind of bete noire, a right-wing Social Democrat who had not joined his party's Red uprising. He was also one of the negotiators of the 1920 treaty, which had set Finland's generous boundaries with Russia. Afterward, Tanner had picked up the debris of the Social Democratic Party and brought it back to respectability and eventual power, while vigorously excluding the Communists. Besides building a strong cooperative movement, he had been prime minister during 1926-27 and finance minister prior to the Winter War. As the wartime foreign minister, Tanner was to be a central personage in the Finnish defensive effort, along with Mannerheim—a "clique," in Soviet invective.

As early as April 1938, Moscow agents had been dropping secret hints to Finnish officials that Finland ought to accept a more active Soviet defense presence and relationship. These hints were turned aside on grounds of Finland's neutrality by Prime Minister Aimo Cajander and Foreign Minister Eljas Erkko. Their official policy was to hold both Germany and Russia at arms length while seeking greater cooperation with the Nordic countries, especially Sweden. But there were certain symptoms of friendliness to Germany that fed Soviet paranoia. For example, on June 30, 1939, the German Chief of Staff, General Franz Halder, had been cordially received, and decorated, as a guest of the Finnish government; he was taken to watch maneuvers on the Karelian Isthmus. Two months later, Finland's largest army maneuvers ever were staged along the Soviet border, with all the military attaches except those from the Soviet Union as observers. Earlier in the year, fortifications on that isthmus had

p. 31

been demonstratively strengthened by a thousand student volunteers of the Academic Karelia Society, an expansionist and anti-Russian group (7: 46).

Moscow Negotiates

By October 1939, the Allies were stalled in the Phony War, Poland was gone, and the Baltics had just been signed over to Stalinist mercy. Now, on October 5, Molotov peremptorily summoned Foreign Minister Erkko to Moscow to deal with "concrete political questions." Instead, Finland mobilized and, without haste, designated a special diplomatic emissary instead of Erkko. Chosen was Juho Paasikivi, then 69, the minister to Sweden and, like Tanner, one of the original negotiators of the 1920 Treaty of Dorpat. A banker, a scholar, and a conservative, Paasikivi unlike most Finns was nevertheless in favor of concessions to Soviet defense obsessions. Ultimately he was to become Finland's president, 1946-56, and author of the "Paasikivi Line" by which Finland ardently deferred to Soviet security needs yet remained an independent country. But in 1939 Paasikivi was regarded as too much of a dove by the cabinet, and his instructions left little room for concession or maneuver. He did cultivate good personal relations with Molotov and the Soviet powers that be; he enjoyed their confidence and was the kind of bourgeois whom the Kremlin preferred to deal with, rather than with a Social Democrat such as Tanner (13).

Actually, Mannerheim himself had strongly urged that Finland offer Russia some of its Gulf islands as well as a frontier change when he learned of the initial Soviet feelers; as an ex-tsarist general, he could appreciate Russia's defense wants (6: 63). Also, he saw that Finland was in a strong position in 1938-39 to obtain Soviet goodwill by timely concessions, because that was momentarily "the period when the Soviet Union felt itself abandoned by the Western Powers and threatened by Germany" (4: 302). But the political leadership, Cajander and Erkko, ignored his advice. One writer summed up their ineptitude by quoting the instruction Erkko had given Paasikivi when he departed for the Moscow talks: "Forget that Russia is a great power" (13: 99). Now, following his deal with Hitler, Stalin was in a position to

p. 32

demand rather than request. But negotiations continued by intervals over a month, from October 12 to November 13.

At the first session, Stalin himself, with Molotov and others, met Paasikivi and his aides. Stalin outlined his fear of naval intrusion in the Gulf of Finland by Britain or Germany and recalled how "Yudenich attacked through the Gulf of Finland and later the British did the same" (5: 27). Therefore, he wanted to lease a naval base on the Hanko peninsula of Finland, plus four Finnish islands in the gulf. He wanted the border on the Karelian Isthmus moved back to a distance of 70 kilometers from Leningrad, instead of 32 kilometers as it was then. (Such a rollback would have erased the Finnish fortifications that were later dubbed "the Mannerheim Line.") Also required was to nick off the Finnish tip of the Rybachi Peninsula, the better to protect Murmansk. In exchange Stalin offered Finland double the amount of (nondescript) territory from Soviet Karelia, saying, "Does any other great power do that? No. We are the only ones that simple" (5: 28).

While these demands may have been reasonable from a Soviet security perspective, the Finnish leadership feared they would prove appetizers to further demands or even Sovietization, and Finland would meanwhile be in a much weaker military position than before. Paasikivi was only authorized to make rather token concessions, so further talks were put off till he returned from consulting Helsinki for new instructions. This time Paasikivi asked that he be accompanied by a cabinet member—Finance Minister Tanner. His addition proved a mistake; as noted above, Tanner the anticommunist Social Democrat rubbed Soviet leaders the wrong way. Relative to the Finnish cabinet, Tanner may have been a dove, but his stance was tougher than Paasikivi's, and with a foot in his mouth: "Tanner greeted the Soviet dictator with the proud confession: 'I am a Menshevik.' It does not require much imagination to conceive of the impression this made on Stalin" (13: 62).

Subsequent negotiating sessions produced only trifling adjustments on either side; the talks were not formally broken, but they ended on November 13. The Soviets later absolved Paasikivi and scapegoated Tanner for the failure of the negotiations. Stalin was

p. 33

apparently startled that Finland had been so slow and stubborn; unlike Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, Finland had not responded with a snappy "yessir."

So, on the day the talks petered out, Stalin began preparation for a sure cure of his security problem: a quickie invasion of Finland that not only would gain the areas requested, but would install a government compatible with the Soviet Union to boot.

The Kuusinen Government

On November 13, Otto W. Kuusinen, a key secretary of the Comintern, wrote a letter to Arvo Tuominen, the secretary general of the (illegal) Finnish Communist Party. Tuominen was then living in Stockholm. He was instructed to rush back to Moscow for an important job in connection with "forceful measures" that Russia was about to undertake against Finland. Tuominen balked. On November 17 he wrote back refusing to heed the Comintern summons. Then on November 21 a courier direct from the Kremlin brought Tuominen an order issued by the CPSU Politburo itself demanding that he fly to Moscow at once. The courier told Tuominen that Russia was on the verge of war with Finland and that he was to be prime minister in a government of Finnish emigres in Russia; Kuusinen was to be president; and they had to choose a cabinet right away (5: 104-5). Once again Tuominen turned down the order. Though long a loyal Communist, he was becoming discouraged by the purges, the Hitler-Stalin pact, and now the threat of Russian imperialist war against Finland. Consequently, he also urged the underground Finnish Communist Party to do as he had, thereby considerably undermining any support the local Party might have given to the Russian invaders (6: 146-47).

The political solution was already off stride, but the military solution lurched forward. On November 26 the Soviets staged a shelling incident near their town of Mainila on the Karelian Isthmus, blamed it on the Finns, and demanded a troop pullback. The Finnish cabinet assumed it was only diplomatic whip-cracking in a war of nerves. In a reply note delivered at midnight November 27, they offered a mutual pullback and joint border

p. 34

investigation in accord with a 1928 treaty. The next day Molotov denounced the 1932 Russo-Finnish non-aggression and conciliation treaties (1: 23-27, 73). Then Finland decided to pull back its troops unilaterally. However, before the Finnish minister in Moscow could deliver the message on November 29, he was given a note at 10:00 P.M. which alleged that Finnish attacks were continuing and broke off diplomatic relations with Finland (1: 73; 6: 153; 22: 403). On the morning of November 30, the invasion itself began by land, sea, and air. Helsinki was bombed. Soviet troops attacked in the north and midsection of Finland and through the Karelian Isthmus. Moscow demanded unconditional surrender (19: 100).

On the same day, November 30, the Moscow press claimed to have received from an "unknown radio broadcast" somewhere in Finland a declaration by the Finnish Communist Party (20: 133). It called for the overthrow of the Finnish government and its replacement by a "People's Government" based on a "broad people's front of toilers" (20: 137). Perhaps in deference to Germany, it denied that a Soviet regime ought to be set up (yet) or that Finland should join the USSR. It called for "Immediate peace, the conclusion of a Soviet-Finnish pact of mutual assistance, annexation by Finland of Soviet Karelia, the creation of a People's Army" and a host of domestic reforms, such as the eight-hour working day—already in effect since 1917 (20: 137).

Sure enough, the next day, December 1, 1939, a "People's Government of the Democratic Republic of Finland" was proclaimed—allegedly in the liberated village of Terijoki near the Soviet border on the Karelian Isthmus. "Mr." Otto W. Kuusinen was chairman and foreign minister, with a cabinet of half a dozen Finnish nobodies. Its program was published the next day by Tass, again as "received" and "translated" in Moscow from an unknown radio transmitter in Terijoki (full text in 2: 425-30; excerpted in 20: 138-39). The nine-point program followed the same lines as the preceding day's call by the Finnish Communist Party. Yet as John Scott, a Western correspondent in Moscow noted:
There was no radio station in Terijoki which could have broadcast the declaration of the new government; Kuusinen had not been in

p. 35

Finland in two decades, and until quite recently had headed the Anglo-American section of the Comintern. These facts were widely known among Moscovites. (19: 101).
The Terijoki Government may have been composed of Finnish figments, but Kuusinen himself was no lightweight. Besides his high positions in the Comintern, he was reputedly "Stalin's ideological adviser and ghost writer" (6: 145). In one book he is thereby called "perhaps the most powerful Finn who ever lived" (13: 5n.). According to Max Jakobson, Kuusinen was "one of the foremost theoreticians of Marxism-Leninism, on whom first Lenin himself and then Stalin relied to provide doctrinal justification for their policies" (6: 165). As recently as 1961 he was the principal author and compiler among the apostles who produced the Soviet Union's new testament, Fundamentals of Marxism-Leninism (47). From 1957 until he died at 83 in 1964 he was a member of both the Presidium and the Secretariat of the Central Committee of the CPSU (11: viii).

Kuusinen had been minister of education in the short-lived Finnish Soviet Republic, January-March 1918; upon its collapse he and several thousand Finns had fled to Russia. He did not return to Finland for the rest of his life (unless, mayhap, to Terijoki). It is he, together with Zhdanov and the self-deluded Soviet minister to Finland, Vladimir Derevyansky, who are generally credited with having given Stalin the crazy advice that Finnish workers would rally within days to the Red cause.

No such thing happened. Russia was Finland's hereditary enemy (18: 7). Tuominen and the Finnish Communist Party had gagged at the Kuusinen scheme. Former Red Guards were seeking to enlist in Finland's defense (7: 62). The country reunited as never before. The "Democratic Republic of Finland" was a mockery; it prompted an emigre Russian suggestion that Trotsky and Kerensky be invited to establish a provisional government in Finland (5: 135-36).

On November 30, the Cajander-Erkko government received a vote of confidence by the Diet, even though its policy had brought the Soviet Union crashing down on Finland, but the vote proved only a gesture. Cajander and Erkko were dumped the next day in favor of a new cabinet: the better to sue for peace? Or

p. 36

wage the war? Or both? It was Tanner who called the signals for the shake-up. He persuaded Risto Ryti to be prime minister and named himself foreign minister. Paasikivi became minister without portfolio. This new cabinet, ready to make new concessions, was supposedly a peace signal to Russia, as relayed by way of America and Sweden. But seeing archfoe Tanner now serving as foreign minister only fanned the Kremlin's contempt.

Meanwhile, the Kuusinen government, as Alexander Werth snickered, "was going from strength to strength" (23: 89). Born on December 1, this "Democratic Republic of Finland" on December 2 signed a Treaty of Mutual Assistance and Friendship with the Soviet Union. It was published the next day in Pravda, together with a front-page photograph of Kuusinen signing while Molotov, Zhdanov, Kliment Voroshilov, and Stalin watched (photo in 2: 242; 15: 112; for three different translations of the treaty, see 5: 101-3 or 8: 238-40; 19: 322-25; 22: 407-9). The treaty not only embodied all of Stalin's original demands, but also reunited to Finland much of the ethnically related area of Soviet Karelia—nearly half of the Karelian Soviet Republic—heretofore an unthinkable thought in Russia (6: 166-67; 20: 139). This bestowal was intended to be the biggest sweetener of all in the treaty, but the document proved as much of a dud as the Terijoki government itself.

The Mutual Assistance Treaty had promised ratification "in the shortest possible time in … Helsinki." It seems clear from all accounts that the USSR expected a waltz-in once the war began. At the outset, the Soviet press said the Red Army would reach Helsinki within ten days (19: 104). Even that was a conservative estimate, as Stalin and others were said to have thought the episode would take only three days to a week at the most. A Soviet official in Berlin told William Shirer that "it will be all over in three days" (Berlin Diary, [New York: Knopf, 1941] quoted in 20: 142). Mannerheim reported that early in the war Russian orders had been captured warning Red Army soldiers not to violate the Swedish frontier (4: 329). According to another account, "In some sectors Soviet troops marched over the border with flags fluttering and brass bands playing, as though envisaging a popular welcome" (41: 33). On December 15, the Russian-

p. 37

speaking Baltic correspondent of the Christian Science Monitor wrote that Russian POWs
had been totally unprepared for real war. "Our political commissar told us," they said, "that we would be in Helsinki by December 21, Stalin's birthday." The Red Army, we were told, planned to make Stalin a birthday present of Finland. (2: 372)
And, as "Khrushchev remembers,"
All we had to do was raise our voice a little bit, and the Finns would obey. If that didn't work, we could fire one shot and the Finns would put up their hands and surrender. Or so we thought… . Like everyone else I was confident that our advantage would prove immeasurable and that our dispute with the Finns would be solved quickly, without many casualties for us. So we thought, and so we hoped. (29: 152-53)
It is also widely accepted that Zhdanov, the Leningrad boss, was the chief hawk behind the Russo-Finnish war; the initial military efforts (and fiascos) were the doing of third-rate troops from the Leningrad military district (e.g., see 2: 373 or 39: 27). Zhdanov may even have fallen into disfavor for a time during the debacle; he was not featured among the well-wishers on Stalin's sixtieth birthday (2: 373).

If security was indubitably the horse of Stalin's policy, the Terijoki government was the cart. But for all that, the cart might as well have been the juggernaut itself. The war had begun on November 30. It was not until fully two months later, on January 30, that Foreign Minister Tanner learned secretly through Sweden that Molotov would negotiate at all with the "Ryti-Tanner government" instead of the puppet. More rivers of blood and a further six weeks of diplomatic intricacies followed. Meanwhile, the Soviet war effort finally began to prevail, with mass artillery and first-line forces under Marshal Semyon Timoshenko. The few troops of the "Kuusinen People's Army" had joined the battle on February 25, and the "Democratic Republic of Finland" remained an active threat and an acute danger till the moment Molotov and Zhdanov signed a peace treaty with the real

p. 38

Helsinki government on March 12. Even then the specter of a Kuusinen conquest remained a live possibility for several years thereafter.

The Quickfrozen/Quicksand War

The military courage and heroism by which the ski-mobilized Finnish Army held off and decimated the enormous Soviet war machine has been widely celebrated, and I need not repeat the saga here. For the Soviet Union, as for Finland, the casualties were staggering. Molotov at the time admitted to nearly 50,000 killed and 160,000 wounded (22: 442). Mannerheim estimated that the Red Army had suffered 200,000 killed (19: 114). Western correspondent John Scott wrote:
Neutral military observers in Moscow considered Mannerheim's estimate of Soviet casualties to be conservative. While I have no basis for forming an intelligent opinion on the subject, a number of Russians, participants in the Finnish War, with whom I subsequently talked all spoke of casualties so great—whole regiments, even divisions, annihilated to a man—that I cannot but conclude that Mannerheim's figure was at least more accurate than Molotov's. (19: 114)
As if to corroborate Scott, almost three decades later, came this statement in Khrushchev's memoirs: "I'd say we lost as many as a million lives" (29: 155).

And Finland: Mannerheim immediately afterward spoke of "more than 15,000" dead (Time, March 25, 1940, p. 26), and Helsinki officially announced 19,576 (20: 191). Then in his 1950 memoirs, Mannerheim brought the figure to about 25,000 dead (4: 370). More than 43,000 were wounded. Molotov said the Red Army general staff had estimated 60,000 Finnish dead; and the military staff of the smarting Leningrad district claimed the Finns had lost "not fewer than 85,000 dead and 250,000 wounded" (20: 191; 22: 442). Naturally, Molotov and company had to exaggerate; they need not have bothered. Relative to one-fortieth of the population, Finnish fatalities equaled the Soviet loss of one million.

Update 2007: Krushchev's "million" figure is now seen as an exaggeration. Citing a post-Soviet declassified Moscow source*,  a casualties page of a Winter War website by Sami Korhonen gives a grand total, killed and missing, of 126,875, on the Russian side. Korhonen also lists the final Finnish losses as 26,662 men, including MIA's. **

* Colonel-General G.F. Krivosheev, "The Secret stamp has removed: casualties of the Soviet Armed Forces in wars and military conflicts", Moscow, 1993

** Sami Korhonen, Casualties in the Winter War http://www.winterwar.com/War%27sEnd/casualti.htm [1999-2006]

p. 39

Moscow Dictates

For two months the Kremlin simply refused to deal with the "Mannerheim-Tanner clique"; they had a very cooperative arrangement with "Mr." Kuusinen. Peace talks with the "Finnish White Guards" could not even be considered. Nevertheless, Tanner kept up a diplomatic campaign to restore communication with Moscow, through the United States, Sweden, and Germany. With Molotov playing incommunicado, Finland turned to the moribund League of Nations, and for what it was worth, the League's dying act was to expel the Soviet Union on December 14 (1: 76-111). Molotov refused to attend the Geneva proceedings on the ground that the USSR was at peace with the Democratic Republic of Finland. Then Tanner appealed directly to Molotov in a December 15 radio broadcast urging a resumption of negotiations, but there was no response (Text, 1: 111-14).

Meanwhile, Tanner was also rounding up as much military assistance as possible. He constantly pressured Sweden for military intervention, but could only obtain moral and material support and several thousand volunteer soldiers. Mannerheim and other Finnish diplomats began to encourage signs of military intervention by England and France. Tanner, at least by his own account, had to send out the peace signals behind the back of a hawkish cabinet, but Mannerheim was also maneuvering and pressuring to obtain a quick negotiated end to the war.

As early as January 7, 1940, Molotov hinted to the German ambassador that peace might be possible if Tanner were dropped (41: 105). Tanner does give a vague and undated report of a preliminary Soviet peace feeler that came through the Estonian foreign minister. The conditions included the Hanko naval base—which so far Finland had adamantly refused to cede—and now also Tanner's removal. Tanner vigorously rejected both conditions (5: 116). Contact with Moscow, tenuous and indirect, was not established until January 30, when Tanner received word that Molotov had notified Sweden the day before that, "The USSR has no objection in principle to concluding an agreement with the Ryti-Tanner government," but demanding to know what concessions Finland would make, blaming Finland for the war, and

p. 40

denying it the largess offered to the Kuusinen government (5: 125). At least, and at last, this was the first confirmation that Moscow might be willing to bypass its Terijoki puppet.

The mechanism of contact was highly roundabout. On January 1, Hella Wuolojoki, a left-wing Finnish playwright, had written Tanner offering to visit her friend Alexandra Kollontai, the Soviet ambassador to Sweden and a luminary of the Bolshevik revolution. Tanner agreed. From the Wuolojoki-Kollontai conversations, Sweden emerged as the middleman in the complicated exchanges between Helsinki and Moscow that finally resulted in Moscow peace talks starting March 8 and the peace treaty of March 12. However, these maneuvers were entirely secret, even from the Finnish cabinet, in the early stages.

Publicly, Moscow backed the Kussinen government to the very end. On February 26, Komsomol'skaya Pravda had said there would be no deal with Helsinki and that the Soviet Union was aiming for complete victory of the Kuusinen government (20: 186). As late as March 7, the (U.S. Communist) Daily Worker had an eight-column, page-one feature spread in praise of the Terijoki government, drawing in turn from the March 1 issue of Kansan Valta, the newspaper of the People's Government. On March 8, with the Moscow talks already underway, "Kansan Valta published an appeal to the Finnish people 'to turn their backs on the Mannerheims and Tanners' who were 'doomed to extinction' " (20: 194). Also on March 8, Komsomol'skaya Pravda reprinted a similar long article by Kuusinen "in which he boasted that the 'bankrupt government of Mannerheim, Ryti, and Tanner is on its way to the bottom. Its days are numbered'" (14: 210). Even on March 10—two days before the peace—Krasnaya Zvezda (Red Star, the army paper) printed an editorial noting the "exceptionally great significance" of the Soviet Union's treaties with the Baltics and the "Finnish Democratic Republic" (14: 210). People's Government propaganda broadcasts had been briefly suspended when the Finnish delegation arrived in Moscow on March 7, but suddenly resumed on March 10: "'Comrades,' the Moscow radio broadcast in Finnish, 'lay down your arms and join the Kuusinen People's Army'" (20: 189)
By February 23 the precise Soviet peace terms had finally been relayed to Tanner through Sweden: cession of the Karelian Isth-

p. 41

mus, including Finland's second largest city, Viipuri, and restoration of Peter the Great's 1721 border by cession of the northeastern shore of Lake Ladoga, including the town of Sortavala. Russia also wanted Finland in a defense treaty. If these conditions were not accepted now, there would be more later—and there were (5: 172).

Finland's military defense by then was all but shattered. At the same time the Finns were also being pressured by France and Britain to hold out and not negotiate with the Soviet Union, so that they could send an expeditionary force to Scandinavia (see below) (6: 240). But on March 3 Tanner notified Molotov through the Swedish foreign minister that Finland would accept the conditions if they could keep Viipuri and Sortavala (5: 204; 41: 168). On March 5, Molotov's answer came through Stockholm: not only must those two cities be ceded with all the rest, but the terms would grow worse if they were not accepted now. The Red Army, he said, was demanding permission to sweep forward. And, unless Finland gave in on those terms at once, the Soviet Union would sign a final treaty with Kuusinen (5: 212-13).

The cabinet accepted and asked for an armistice during the negotiations. Molotov replied on March 6 denying an armistice but inviting a delegation to Moscow while the war proceeded. On March 7 a delegation secretly left for Moscow by way of Stockholm, consisting of Prime Minister Ryti, Paasikivi, and two others. This time Tanner was omitted from the team.

The talks began on March 8. Molotov and Zhdanov at once upped the demands to include parts of the districts of Kuusamo and Salla so as to give the Murmansk railroad better protection. Finland was also ordered to build a railroad across the wilds of its northern central waist, from the USSR to Sweden, by the end of 1940, and give the Soviets transit rights. On March 10 Molotov warned repeatedly that the talks would be broken off unless the demands were acceded to (5: 234). As described by Anthony F. Upton:
The Treaty of Moscow was a dictated peace. From the start the Soviet representatives made it clear that there could be no concessions and no haggling. They took the line that Finland was fortunate to be let off so lightly, and that if the terms were not accepted at

p. 42

once, any future settlement would be harsher. If the Finnish government tried to fight on, it was made clear that the Soviet government was prepared to proceed with the total conquest of Finland, and the imposition of Kuusinen's government. (39: 22)
Nonetheless, Moscow did not press for the defense alliance, agreed to return the Petsamo district which it had captured, and allowed some changes on minor details. Alexandra Kollontai during the initial contacts had kept trying to put the best face on Stalin's demands, even hoping that once the Finns were in Moscow he would make a "grand gesture." With all their amputations —a tenth of their territory lost, instant relocation needed for 450,000 evacuees —the Finns did not see any such magnanimity. But apparently the Soviets considered their relinquishment of Petsamo to be exactly that. Not only did the region have an ice-free harbor, but it was also one of the world's few sources of militarily important nickel. H. Peter Krosby, who stresses the Petsamo aspect much more than the other writers, points out: "Molotov seemed anxious to make his Finnish visitors understand the magnitude of this grand gesture. 'No other great power would have agreed to withdraw its troops from an ice-free harbor,' he said…" (43: 9).

This may hardly have been sheer generosity. Krosby (and Mannerheim) speculate that it was the foreign nickel interests in Petsamo that made the Soviets fearful of provoking foreign intervention, now that the Anglo-French landing had been so narrowly averted. Indeed, the nickel mines were soon to figure in a long tug-of-war between the Soviet Union, Germany, and Finland, as well as British and U.S. mining interests. Earlier, when handing back Petsamo, "Soviet officers explained that they had orders to return this 'American [mining] property' exactly as they had found it, and they made the Finns sign a protocol certifying that fact" (43: 10).

Such was America's inadvertent influence on the war's outcome. Otherwise the United States had been but peripherally involved in the peace efforts, through abortive mediation offers. Also, on March 7, Secretary of State Cordell Hull had authorized Ambassador Laurence Steinhardt in Moscow to "intimate" to

p. 43

Molotov that a "generous attitude" toward Finland would facilitate U.S.-Soviet trade relations (37: 34). Max Jakobson writes that Molotov was unimpressed by the U.S. appeal for leniency (6: 251). Douglas Clark suggests that "it is most improbable that it made the slightest difference" (41: 215). Andrew J. Schwartz notes that Prime Minister Ryti told Hull on May 9 that only Steinhardt's move had effectively moderated the Russian demands (37: 36). Allen F. Chew regards the Ryti remark as a diplomatic white lie (14: 296, n. 66).

At a Supreme Soviet Presidium meeting on March 18, Molotov announced that the People's Government had agreed to dissolve itself "of its own volition" (20: 190). Chew quotes a similar Molotov statement in Pravda of March 30, averring that the "People's Government of Finland" had been consulted about the peace treaty, which it had "welcomed" (14: 211).

Why the Kuusinen Government Was Aborted

Two complementary questions can be posed at this point: (1) If, pragmatically, the Terijoki government had proved such a farce and the war itself such a dangerous and humiliating hemorrhage, why didn't Stalin cut his losses and drop Kuusinen by, say, the end of December, instead of March? Or, (2) assuming Stalin was going to ride it out and impose Kuusinen on Helsinki at the cost of Soviet Russia's remaining moral prestige and hundreds of thousands of casualties—yea, a million dead—why did he suddenly stop when military victory was in sight?

The answer to the first question might have something to do with the Red Army high command. Having been so devastated by a tiny country in December, they could hardly quit while they were behind. They spent all of January massing and organizing just to even the score, and by February 1 they had begun to lower the boom, restoring their prestige in their own eyes. By this reasoning, even if Stalin had wanted to forget about Terijoki as 1940 dawned, he would have felt obligated to the military to stay the course while they retrieved the situation and their prestige—as well as the USSR's reputation as a great power (6: 218-19). That the war was continued so as to salvage the Red Army's face
p. 44

(while savaging Finland's) was implicitly known at the time, whether mentioned by Elliston or Kollontai, Hitler or Newsweek. As Max Jakobson put it, "Probably the Soviet marshals were demanding a chance to prove their worth. They must have been deeply embarrassed, to put it mildly, by the ridicule heaped upon their performance in Finland" (6: 219; cf. 48).

As noted previously, Molotov had said the Red Army was "demanding permission" to triumph when he denied the armistice. And when Molotov restored Petsamo to Finland, he told their delegation that "'significant, very significant military circles' had insisted that Petsamo be retained by the Soviet Union" (43: 9). As it turned out, the truncated borders of Finland gained by the Treaty of Moscow were what the military had wanted in the first place back in October 1939 (5: 26-27).

Emphasizing the Red Army's role in prolonging the Winter War—and willy-nilly the Kuusinen pretendership—would correspond to a similar interpretation offered by Leslie Bain about the Hungarian uprising. Bain, a journalist, was a firsthand observer of the events in Hungary in 1956. He speculated that the Kremlin had in fact decided to pull out of Hungary but that the Soviet Army, stung by excesses of the freedom fighters, had itself decided to smash the revolution. Then, "the political leadership of the Soviet Union fell in line" (45: 161).

The answer to the second question, why Stalin quit when he was already winning, has to do with the imminence of a large Anglo-French expeditionary force that was on the verge of coming to the aid of Finland—departing March 12, the day the peace treaty was signed. How had that come about?

In the lull of the Phony War, Finland's heroic resistance had been widely trumpeted and admired. As it soon became apparent that Russia was a pitiful helpless giant and Germany a quiescent foe, the risk of fighting both together seemed feasible. A set of diverse popular pressures and political (mis)calculations eventually led Britain and France to make ill-coordinated and variable pledges of somewhere between 6,000 and 57,000 men for an expeditionary force to be sent to Finland through Norway and Sweden—if Finland would openly request it. And if Norway and Sweden would assent. Altogether, the premises and the planning for this strategic folly were so harebrained as to leave historians

p. 45

gasping. A. J. P. Taylor said its motives "defy rational analysis" and were "the product of a madhouse" (40: 469). Douglas Clark writes that "if madness is to be defined as an inability to consider the consequences of one's actions, British ministers on the 12th fell out of their senses" (41: 181; for a contemporary eight-point rationale, however, see 2: 400-404).

The Crunch

This projected Anglo-French intervention was perhaps the most complex and hair-curling episode of realpolitik in modern history. The cross-purposes and out-manipulations were multilateral and murderous. The following brief synoposis is largely based on lakobson (6) and Clark (41), who give the best overview among the various works cited below.

We know what Stalin and Kuusinen were after. Tanner and Mannerheim wanted the threat of an Anglo-French landing as a weapon for a diplomatic settlement with Russia—and got both; They did not want the landing—it would have been too little and too late—but kept beckoning for it. French Premier Édouard Daladier wanted to move the war front far away from France by compelling Scandinavia to become the battleground; perhaps he even wanted a switch of enemies, the Soviet Union for Germany. In his scheme, moreover, the USSR's Baku oil fields were to be bombed at the same time by General Maxime Weygand's French forces in Syria, with Turkey's cooperation, thereby cutting off Soviet oil export to Germany. Winston Churchill, then first lord of the Admiralty, wanted to capture the Swedish iron mines and halt their shipments to Germany by using a popular expedition to heroic Finland as a pretext. (A Petsamo landing directly in Finland was ruled out because it would miss the iron mines, confront the Soviets too soon, and entail other logistic difficulties.) Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain hardly knew what he was doing, except to specify that Finland would have to appeal for the expedition publicly, and that Sweden and Norway would have to agree to let it through. Sweden and Norway did not even want to be asked such permission to donate themselves as a Big Power battlefield, lest Germany pounce as it had threatened, and as it soon did in Denmark and Norway. But Finnish leaders

p. 46

wanted Sweden and Norway to take the onus of preventing the expedition, so that the politically unbearable peace treaty could be passed by the Diet. The Finns had sought in vain for meaningful military aid; they had pressed for the expedition such as it was; they had gotten the expected denial of transit rights from their neighbors; and, in their time of maximum peril on March 11, they were even offered the expeditionary force in the teeth of Scandinavian resistance. Yet in the absolute crunch they did not formally request the Anglo-French intervention!

It was an extremely close shave for everyone. The Allies had set first March 5, then March 12 as the deadline for Finland to quit the peace talks and sound the summons. Until March 11, Chamberlain had adamantly respected the neutral rights of Scandinavia; that day the Allies decided to launch the expedition regardless. As Douglas Clark depicts the situation,
The fighting ships, the transports, were massed in the Clyde; the men were embarking. The button was under Finland's finger; she had only to press it. The Winter War had entered its last and most fantastic phase during which, for thirty-six hours, the colossal issue of whether the Western Powers were to become involved in simultaneous war with Hitler and Stalin rested solely on her decision. (41: 180)
Churchill's Hinge of Fate might best have described that moment of World War II. On March 11, however, unknown to the Allies, the Finnish delegation had been authorized to sign the treaty. They did so shortly before midnight on March 12-13. The cease-fire began at 11:00 A.M. on March 13. The expedition suddenly and ignominiously had to be canceled. Daladier was toppled by Paul Reynaud shortly afterward. Chamberlain fell in the backwash, when Hitler, seeing Britain's obvious design on Scandinavia, grabbed Norway and Denmark.

The Kuusinen Government Reconsidered
"Remember," said [ex-Foreign Minister] Erkko, … "that the Russian is a Tartar, and that when the Tartar was a nomad, and wanted to

p. 47

protect his camp, he always sought to clear a protective zone for about five hundred kilometres all around." (2: 160)
To raise again the question of the Kremlin's motive for fighting the Russo-Finnish War: Was it only a matter of extending Russia's defense perimeter, or was revolutionary conquest via Kuusinen the key element of the campaign? The journalist H. B. Elliston (who quotes Erkko above), writing in January 1940, mentions that he had queried many Scandinavian and Baltic statesmen about the Soviet motive. He found them equally divided between two schools, which he named after Paasikivi and Erkko:
Mr. Paasikivi believes that the Soviet aim is primarily military, or defensive—pathologically defensive, if you like. Mr. Erkko, on the contrary, thinks that the aim is primarily political, or world revolutionary, and that the essence of the Bolshevik drive is to bring other peoples under Soviet sway, Finland first of all. (2: 171)
Elliston favored Paasikivi's explanation, because Erkko himself had supplied the Tartar analogy, but Elliston added that the Finns were more likely to get outside aid on the basis of the world-revolution supposition.

In any case, what came of the purely defensive rationale Stalin had for launching the Winter War? It turned out to be strategic stupidity by at least three different indictments. (1) By the very process of having inflicted such a brutal war and harsh peace on Finland, the USSR helped create precisely what it had most feared and tried to prevent: a staging base (and cobelligerent besides) for a German attack on the Soviet Union. (2) Even what Stalin gained after hundreds of thousands of casualties is scoffed at by Jakobson: the Hanko naval base proved worthless against Germany and had to be evacuated because the invasion came by land. Actually, Finland resisted German pressure to join the attack on Leningrad (6: 118). And, (3) as Louis Fischer points out, everything Russia had annexed by Hitler's permission was overrun within a week in June 1941. The Finns reoccupied their lost territories. The Germans swept through the Baltics.

 p. 48

Russia's war effort would have been furthered if no Soviet boot had ever trod there. Those regions served not as a buffer but as a catapult accelerating the Wehrmacht's progress to the great population centers of Russia. (25: 462)
Disaffected populations were not the only factor. Fischer quotes a Soviet writer who admits that by the summer of 1941, "the new national frontiers had only the most primitive field fortifications" because there had been insufficient time to build them; yet the old 1939 border defense had been weakened or dismantled in the meantime (25: 462).

So much for the defensive motivation, even if that was in fact the overriding concern. What about the "Democratic Republic of Finland"?

Soviet history itself consigns the Kuusinen government to the memory hole. Nowhere in the Moscow-published sources cited is it ever mentioned (27; 28). Khrushchev reiterates, "I repeat: our only goal was to protect our security in the north" (29: 152). Immediately after the Winter War references to the Kuusinen government were dropped from schoolbooks (19: 115).

Although Tanner and another writer each assert that the Terijoki regime had "enriched political science with a new concept," soon followed by Quisling, they seem to be overlooking numerous puppet precedents (3: 66; 5: 101). What was Napoleon's stock in trade? More recent were the establishment of Manchukuo in 1931 and Soviet Russia's own earlier attempts in the same vein. During their counterinvasion of Poland in 1920, the Bolsheviks had formed a Revolutionary Government of Poland on July 31, seated in Bialystok, with Julian Marchlewski as president. The Provisional Polish Revolutionary Committee also included GPU head Felix Dzerzhinsky and two others. A similar pattern was used in Outer Mongolia in 1921. But the Polish venture had been launched on the heels of the invasion rather than beforehand; its collapse was partially attributed by Marchlewski to that delay (20: 135). For Finland, then, the political objective ostensibly preceded the military lunge, so to speak.

Therefore, seen only as a tactic, the Kuusinen government served these purposes:

p. 49

  1. It would "call in" the onrushing Russian troops, as did Kádár in 1956.
  2. It would preclude the need to declare war on Finland, because Molotov would allege that the Soviet Union was at peace with the "Democratic Republic of Finland," as he did when summoned by the League of Nations (22: 410-11). The United States utilized this charade in order to avoid applying the neutrality laws and declaring the Soviet Union a belligerent; Hull wanted to avoid driving the USSR and Germany still closer together (37: 17).
  3. It would provide the propaganda figleaf for Soviet Russia's debut in naked international aggression, because the USSR "could not wage a conventional, bourgeois war against another state" (6: 168-69). The invasion required "ideological camouflage," as Max Jakobson put it.
  4. In general, the People's Government, by Anatole Mazour's description, "was a convenient agency which could perform a multitude of things or contribute nothing" (8: 111).
However, if the Kuusinen Government had indeed been only a wartime tactic, then it would have been stupid to rely on it for long. It united the hard-fighting Finns into a desperate battle for independence, yet was a butt of world-wide ridicule, even in the Soviet Union itself. Neither liability would have mattered in the end if Kuusinen had gained the quick victory programmed for him, or even a delayed victory. Therefore, it is evident that once Stalin decided to go for a military solution in the matter of reinforcing the northwest defenses, he seized the opportunity to set up simultaneously a communist government, as he would in the Baltics in 1940 and in eastern Europe after 1945.

At the last minute, on the verge of victory, Stalin did prove willing to drop the People's Government as if it had been a mere propaganda tactic all along. However, I would say that this creature was not just a tactic; it was the strategy. The Soviet Union's public objective throughout the entire three and a half terrible months of the Winter War had been to disestablish the "Mannerheim-Tanner Gang" and install the Kuusinen government. Only the looming danger of Anglo-French intervention had

p. 50

caused the sudden suspension of that objective. And however asinine that intervention would have been, it was a fresh disaster Stalin did not need.

Clearly, then, the Terijoki government, as Max Jakobson writes, was "not a harmless hoax" (6: 167). For nearly two-thirds of the war, the Soviet Union had refused to negotiate at all with the "White Finnish Clique." It is not enough simply to point out, as do Alexander Werth, C. Leonard Lundin, and others, that the Terijoki government was "an absurd experiment" or "an extraordinarily stupid move" that delayed a negotiated settlement (23: 99; 7: 62). It was; and it did; but raw power can vindicate itself anyway. The Mutual Assistance Treaty was almost ratified in Helsinki, except that Stalin suddenly had bigger worries. Even then, only hours before the end of the war, Stalin was still using the Kuusinen government as a negotiating knout, threatening to finish the job unless Finland took a dictated peace at once. The "Democratic Republic of Finland" was a very near miss.

What's more, after the Treaty of Moscow, Finland still appeared to suffer the predicament of being an extra tough bone which a dog is saving for a little later when the other dogs move away. On March 31, 1940, the Supreme Soviet established the Karelian-Finnish Soviet Socialist Republic as a twelfth union republic of the USSR, including the newly won territories. On July 10, it elected as president—Otto W. Kuusinen! (20: 193-94; 39: 87) Meanwhile in June, as the world reeled at the fall of France, Stalin cashiered the sovereign governments of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania and bear-hugged the Baltics into the USSR. Then the Soviet Union invaded Rumania to repossess Bessarabia, with a wink from Hitler. The Finns suspected that Kuusinen's new union republic was to be fleshed out with the rest of Finland in due course. As Anthony Upton writes, "Their suspicions were almost certainly correct" (39: 87).

During the Winter War, Hitler had scrupulously refrained from interfering with the Soviet war effort. Now as 1940 caromed from one shock to another, power relations changed greatly. When Molotov went to Berlin in November 1940 he sought clearance from Hitler to apply the "Bessarabia solution" to Finland: annexation (35: 240; 36: 217). Hitler vetoed the Russian takeover.

p. 51

Chief of Staff Halder wrote in his diary, "'Finland: any further Russian action casus belli' " (39: 177). Finland became one of the main bones of contention between Germany and the Soviet Union. By this time Hitler was interested in Finnish nickel (Petsarno) and timber; and, more critically, Finland had granted transit rights to both Soviet troops (bound for Hanko) and German troops (bound, at first, for Norway). Finland was a chief cause of the souring of Nazi-Soviet relations after November 1940.

(Finland's role in the rest of World War II and its escape from Soviet occupation then is beyond the scope of this paper. Suffice it to note that Finland fought the USSR as a nonallied cobelligerent with Germany, regaining its lost lands and more. In 1944 it had to change war-horses in the middle of the stream, driving German troops out of Lapland after another dictated armistice with the USSR. The 1940 boundaries were restored, and the Soviet Union got Petsamo as well, plus an enormous indemnity.)

Considered both as a strategy and a preview, the Kuusinen government can best be summed up in H. B. Elliston's observation of January 1940:
Security is the means uniting both defenders and expanders the moment an aggressor passes over a national frontier. Moreover, this "preventive encirclement strategy" of the Soviet Bear brings along in its train the Soviet system. (2: 171; emphasis added)
Was it a pratfall? Yes, of course. But while Terijoki may have proved a grim joke, canceled only at the last minute, the various people's republics of slightly more recent vintage were not so fortunate. (Nonetheless, one could argue that the German Democratic Republic was itself only a bargaining chip, to be traded for a neutral, disarmed, united Germany; but events have brought it to stay.)

Defeated but Not Conquered

The political and strategic ramifications of the Winter War are fascinating; the what-ifs are horrifying; and there is much room
p. 52

for speculation and comment on many of its political and military fine points. For example, was the Mannerheim Line or the Paasikivi Line more important in saving Finnish independence? And why did Finland remain free, in contrast to the three Baltic states that were so easily annexed in June 1940? While not delving into this last question, in fairness to the Baltics we can point to—if not necessarily concur with—an explanation advanced by Albert N. Tarulis:
None of the Baltic States was in a position to offer effective resistance. Finland's example is not conclusive. Nowhere on the Baltic south of the Gulf of Finland were there natural obstacles, similar to the wide swamps and thick woods in Karelia… . Furthermore, the Baltic States were completely isolated from the rest of the world by the Soviet Union, with its naval bases all the way from Hangoe to Keipaja. (32: 197)
Nevertheless, the Winter War seems vividly to demonstrate the efficacy of bloody war and threat of larger war as a means of resisting Soviet Russian expansionism. That moral is drawn most explicitly by John H. Wuorinen, who writes:
There is no doubt but that the USSR intended to crush Finland once and for all—Molotov had made that clear in Berlin—and that annexation would have been carried through if the Finns had not fought appears certain. That independence was saved by fighting is equally clear. (10: 387)
In reality, Finland was also saved by its geography and by power politics, which were both the cause and cure of the Winter War. But the tenacious fighting, which produced a "victory in defeat," looms large in any consideration of Finnish independence from the Soviet Union, as compared to the Baltic states or other areas absorbed into the Soviet Union or its sphere. (Indeed, the word "Finlandization" is a slur on Finnish heroism and wisdom. If we must utter that term at all, would that Poland or the GDR could be "Finlandized".) The Finns lost a tenth of their territory and suffered tremendous casualties, but they succeeded

p. 53

in staving off the Kuusinen government. As Max Jakobson said, "Finland was defeated. But she was not conquered" (6: 259).

Concluding Thoughts

In this paper my major focus has been the precise nature of the threat posed by the Kuusinen government—and its ilk—as well as the means by which it was negated: the awesomely slaughterous Winter War. The question might be posed: is there a way to defend national integrity without killing a million people in the process? Would the same Finnish fortitude and tenacity, which the Finns call sisu, alternatively suggest a nonviolent defense strategy and ethos? Elsewhere, I have presented a morale-oriented theory of strategic nonviolent defense against military imposition of alien government (51; see also 49 and 50). In an unpublished paper I have looked at "nonviolent defense clues from the Winter War" (52). There I hardly suggest that the Finns could have won by a Gandhian strategy about as unknown then as it is today. What I do argue is that national morale is the sine qua non of strategic nonviolent defense.

In the Winter War, Finnish morale was the major clue. Militarily, Finland lost the war. However, it was able to unhorse Stalin's puppet, and to sue for peace with its morale intact; its national integrity and democratic government preserved. [This unpublished appendix now included below—gk]


In each category entries are chronological by date of authorship (bracketed if necessary).

Finnish Focus
1.Finland, Ministry for Foreign Affairs, The Development of Finnish-Soviet Relations, During the Autumn of 1939 in the Light of Official Documents (Helsinki: 1940), 114 pp. U.S. ed., The Finnish Blue Book (Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1940, with March 1940 peace treaty added), 120 pp. [December, 1939].

p. 54

2. H. B. Elliston, Finland Fights (Boston: Little, Brown, 1940), 443 pp. [January, 1940].
3. Anon., Finland and World War II, 1939-1944, trans. and ed. John H. Wuorinen (New York: Ronald Press, 1948), 228 pp. [1945].
4. Carl Gustaf Mannerheim, The Memoirs of Marshal Mannerheim,
trans. Court Eric Lewenhaupt (New York: Dutton, 1954), 540 pp. [1950].
5. Väinö Tanner, The Winter War: Finland Against Russia 1939-1940 (Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 1957, orig.; Finnish, 1950), 274 pp.
6. Max Jakobson, The Diplomacy of the Winter War: An Account of the Russo-Finnish War, 1939-1940 (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1961), 281 pp. Drab title; spell-binding book; tragic and comic by turns [1955].
7. C. Leonard Lundin, Finland in the Second World War (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1957), 303 pp. In part, an extended commentary on the major works published thus far about the Winter War and its sequel [1956].
8. Anatole G. Mazour, Finland Between East and West (Princeton, N.J.: Van Nostrand, 1956), 298 pp.
9. G. A. Gripenberg, Finland and the Great Powers: Memoirs of a Diplomat (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1965), 380 pp.
10. John H. Wuorinen, A History of Finland (New York: Columbia University Press, for the American-Scandinavian Foundation, 1965), 548 pp.
11. John H. Hodgson, Communism in Finland: A History and Interpretation (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1967), 261 pp. Astounding for its omission of any mention whatsoever of the Kuusinen government and Tuominen's defiance of Soviet orders to be its prime minister.
12. Oliver Warner, Marshal Mannerheim and the Finns (London:Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1967), 232 pp.
13. Marvin, Rintala, Four Finns: Political Profiles (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1969), 120 pp. Political-leadership essays on Mannerheim, Tanner, Stahlberg, and Paasikivi.
14. Allen F. Chew, The White Death: The Epic of the Soviet-Finnish Winter War (East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 1971), 313 pp.
15. Eloise Engle and Lauri A. Paanan, The Winter War: The Russo-Finnish Conflict 1939-40 (New York: Scribner's 1973), 176 pp. (Nevakivi [16] says U.K. ed. published 1972; not mentioned in this edition.)

 p. 55

16. Jukka Nevakivi, The Appeal That Was Never Made: The Allies Scandinavia, and the Finnish Winter War, 1939-1940, trans. Mrs. Jukka Nevakivi (Montreal: McGill-Queen's University Press, 1976), 225 pp. Orig. Finnish, Apu Jota ei pyydetty, 1972. Uses more primary documents (and interviews) than earlier books, but lacks the coherent narrative of, e.g., Jakobson (6), Lundin (7), or Clark (41). Clumsy footnotes; abbreviation referents buried or missing.
17. Anthony F. Upton, Finland 1939-1940 (London: Davis-Poynter, 1974), 174 pp.
18. L. A. Puntila, The Political History of Finland 1809-1966, trans. David Miller (London: Heinemann, 1975), 248 pp. Orig. Finnish, Suomen polittinen historia 1809-1966, 1975. Contains, on p. 7, a vivid set of nine small maps showing areas lost to Russia/USSR in 1323, 1595, 1617, 1721, 1743, 1809, 1920, 1940, and 1944.

Russian Focus
19. John Scott, Duel for Europe: Stalin versus Hitler (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1942), 381 pp.
20. David 1. Dallin, Soviet Russia's Foreign Policy, 1939-1942. trans. Leon Dennen (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1942), 452 pp.
21. Max Beloff, The Foreign Policy of Soviet Russia, 1920-1941, vol. 2, 1936-1941 (London: Oxford University Press, RIIA, 1949),434 pp.
22. Jane Degras, ed., Soviet Documents on Foreign Policy (London: Oxford University Press, RIIA, 1953), 500 pp.
23. Alexander Werth, Russia at War, 1941-1945 (New York: Avon, 1965; orig. Dutton, 1964), 1,000 pp.
24. Adam B. Ulam, Expansion and Coexistence: The History of Soviet Foreign Policy, 1917-67 (New York: Praeger, 1968), 775 pp.
25. Louis Fischer, Russia's Road from Peace to War: Soviet Foreign Relations 1917-1941 (New York: Harper, 1969), 499 pp.

Pro-Soviet Items
26. W. P. Coates and Zelda K. Coates, The Soviet-Finnish Campaign: Military and Political, 1939-1940 (London: Eldon Press, 1941), 172 pp. Largely an attack on British press coverage of the war.
27. Ivan Maisky, Memoirs of a Soviet Ambassador: The War, 1939-43, trans. Andrew Rothstein (New York: Scribner's, 1968; orig. Moscow, 1965), 407 pp.

p. 56

28. History of Soviet Foreign Policy, 1917-1945, ed. B. Ponomaryov, A. Gromyko, and V. Khvostov; trans. David Skvirsky (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1969), 498 pp.
29. Nikita S. Khrushchev, Khrushchev Remembers, trans. and ed. Strobe Talbott (Boston: Little, Brown, 1970), 639 pp.

Baltic Focus
30. Gregory Meiksins, The Baltic Riddle: Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania—Key-Points of European Peace (New York: L. B. Fischer, 1943), 271 pp. Not quite pro-Soviet, but takes a permissive view of Russian aims and a skeptical view of the Baltics' policies.
31. John Alexander Swettenham, The Tragedy of the Baltic States: A Report Compiled from Official Documents and Eyewitnesses' Stories (London: Hollis and Carter, 1952), 216 pp.
32. Albert N. Tarulis, Soviet Policy Toward the Baltic States, 1918-1940 (South Bend, Ind.: University of Notre Dame Press, 1959), 276 pp. Abominable footnotes: a thicket of inaccessible op. cit's. Draws heavily from the 1954 hearings of the U.S. House Select Committee on Communist Aggression.

World Political Focus
33. Harold Lavine and James Wechsler, War Propaganda and the United States (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, for the Institute for Propaganda Analysis, 1940), 363 pp.
34. Winston S. Churchill, The Gathering Storm (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1948), 784 pp.
35. Nazi-Soviet Relations, 1939-1941: Documents from the Archives of the German Foreign Office, eds. Raymond J. Sontag and James S. Beddie (Washington, D.C.: Department of State, GPO, 1948), 362 pp. Cold-war effort to put some diplomatic egg on Russia's face, much of it well-deserved. On p. 240 appears the critical passage citing Molotov's query to Hitler, November 13, 1940, about Russia taking over Finland in toto, "on the same scale as in Bessarabia," from a memorandum by Hitler's interpreter Paul Schmidt (see 36).
36. Paul Schmidt, Hitler's Interpreter, ed. R. H. C. Steed (London: Heinemann, 1951), 286 pp. Schmidt was the note-taking witness on November 13, 1940, when Molotov let the cat out of the bag regarding Moscow's wish to absorb Finland. This work, on p. 217, covers similar ground to Schmidt's memo cited in 35 above, without the "Bessarabia" remark. "Final settlement of the Finnish question" is the locution.

p. 57

37. Andrew J. Schwartz, America and the Russo-Finnish War (Washington, D.C.: Public Affairs Press, 1960), 103 pp.
38. Sir Edmund Ironside, The Ironside Diaries, 1937-1940, ed. Roderick Macleod and Denis Kelly (London: Constable, 1962), 434 pp.
39. Anthony F. Upton, Finland in Crisis, 1940-1941: A Study in Small-Power Politics (Ithaca, N. Y.: Cornell University Press, 1965), 318 pp.
40. A. J. P. Taylor, English History, 1914-1945 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1965), 708 pp.
41. Douglas Clark, Three Days to Catastrophe (London: Hammond, 1966), 228 pp. Like Jakobson (6), a nonfiction thriller marbled with dry humor.
42. U.S. Department of State, Finland-USSR Boundary (International Boundary Study No. 74, Office of the Geographer, (February I, 1967), 19 pp. Includes background commentary and texts of boundary protocols since 1940; plus a small-scale map, 1/3.5 million, of no great usefulness.
43. H. Peter Krosby, Finland, Germany, and the Soviet Union, 1940-1941: The Petsamo Dispute (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1968), 276 pp.
44. Roger Parkinson, Peace for Our Time: Munich to Dunkirk—The Inside Story (London: Rupert Hart-Davis, 1971), 412 pp. Uses newly released British Cabinet papers (cf. Nevakivi, 16).

Other Notes
45. Leslie B. Bain, The Reluctant Satellites: An Eyewitness Report on East Europe and the Hungarian Revolution (New York: Macmillan, 1960), 233 pp.
46. Leonard Schapiro, The Communist Party of the Soviet Union, 2nd ed., rev. (New York: Vintage, 1971; orig. 1960), 686 pp.
47. O. W. Kuusinen, et al. Fundamentals of Marxism-Leninism Manual, trans. Clemens Dutt (Moscow: Foreign Languages Publishing House, 2nd impression, 1961), 891 pp.
48. Harrison E. Salisbury, War Between Russia and China (New York: Bantam, 1970; orig. Norton, 1969), 210 pp. Three months before the Winter War, the Red Army had routed Japan in an unsung, undeclared war in Mongolia (pp. 128-131).
49. Adam Roberts, "Civil Resistance as a Technique in International Relations," in The Yearbook of World Affairs, 1970 (London: Stevens, 1970), 25-39. Brief introduction to the subject.

p. 58

50. Gene Sharp, The Politics of Nonviolent Action (Boston: Porter Sargent, 1973), 902 pp. Paperback ed., 1974, 3 vols., same pagination. Exhaustive introduction to the subject.
51. Gene Keyes, "Strategic Nonviolent Defense: The Construct of an Option," Journal of Strategic Studies 4, no. 2 (June 1981): 125-51.
52. Gene Keyes, "Nonviolent Defense Clues from the Winter War" (Paper presented at International Studies Association, Annual Meeting, Philadelphia, March 19, 1981), 14 pp. [reprinted below]

Contemporary Periodicals, 1939-40

Daily Worker (New York)

[Part 2: appendix, from same 1972 paper, previously unpublished]

Nonviolent Defense Clues from the Winter War
Note: These remarks presuppose a literature on strategic nonviolent defense, which is not reprised here. See references 49-51 above.
The Winter War would seem an especially forbidding locale to seek out the possibilities of unarmed resistance. But it contains certain clues for the nonviolent defense analyst to consider. The themes may be roughly divided into categories of the defender's strength, and the aggressor's weakness, however much the military balance may be overwhelmingly the opposite. The crux is morale.

Aggressor's weakness:
1) Demoralization of Red Army troops when employed in a non-defensive role
I have previously noted how the wounded pride of the Red Army may have created the need for a smashing comeback before a political settlement could be considered. This was achieved at gruesome cost to the defenders and invaders alike. Still, one of the most salient features of the first half of the War was the unpreparedness and demoralization of the second and third rate troops that were thrown into battle. Leonard Schapiro speaks of "the reluctance of the Soviet troops to fight a war of invasion with which they had little sympathy… " (46: 494) John Scott observed that
In a good army the soldier is cocky and the staff is sober, modest, and realistic. In Russia in 1939 the soldiers were indifferent and cynical while the staff was arrogant and cocksure. (19: 104)
Max Jakobson emphasizes the difference between the effectiveness of the Red Army when its role is that of the defender rather than the invader. In World War II after June 1941,
Instead of attacking a small neighbor for reasons that even to the cowed and indoctrinated Soviet citizen could hardly appear inspiring, the Russian soldier was then called upon to defend his own soil against a cruel invader. (6: 220)
Also, only three months before the Winter War, the Red Army had performed far more effectively in the decisive and defensive battle of Khalkin-gol (in Mongolia) against Japanese incursion from Manchuria. (48: 128-31)

A nonviolent defense strategy would strive to exploit and foster demoralization and defection among the invading troops. Scattered instances of both were also noted during Soviet repressions in East Germany, Hungary, and Czechoslovakia, but these tendencies could not be reinforced because hostility or shooting aimed at the Red Army shored up its justification for 'doing its job'. If the defenders could absorb substantial casualties while demonstratively not shooting back, there could be greater latitude for using the leverage of troop demoralization, defection, and mutiny.

2) Demoralization on the Soviet foe's home front
John Scott describes the considerable dislocations within Russia caused by the Winter War: food shortages, runs on banks, rising prices, transport breakdowns, and the "detrimental effect on Soviet morale" of Finnish broadcasts whenever they got through the jamming.(19: 107)  "Krushchev remembers" a dramatic episode showing how close to the top the tension and bad morale had reached:
… Stalin jumped up in a white-hot rage and started to berate Voroshilov. Voroshilov was also boiling mad. He leaped up, turned red, and hurled Stalin's accusations back into his face; "You have yourself to blame for all this!" shouted Voroshilov. "You're the one who annihilated the Old Guard of the army; you had our best generals killed:" Stalin rebuffed him, and at that, Voroshilov picked up a platter with a roast suckling pig on it and smashed it on the table. It was the only time in my life I ever witnessed such an ourburst. (29: 154)

3) Covert passive resistance by the Russians
"Covert passive resistance" should not be confused with the dynamic strategy of unarmed defense being indicated here. However, an observation by John Scott suggests another aspect of home-front demoralization brought on by the Finnish War:
There were no strikes. The Russians went to work in the morning, they stayed at work all day, yet somehow not as much got done. The Russian people have a genius for this method of expressing their dissatisfaction or irritation with something. (19: 109)
Again, symptoms such as these are to be welcomed and fostered as part of a multi-pronged nonviolent defense effort.

4) Russian ridicule of the Kuusinen government
Still another report by John Scott shows that the Kuusinen affair had opened Stalin to a most devastating weapon against a tyrant's pretensions: open laughter.
The whole Terioki fiasco was so transparent and crude that the simplest Moscovites were skeptical, even amused, when Pravda front-paged a photograph of Stalin and Kuusinen after the signature of the pact… . It was the only instance I can remember in nearly a decade in Russia when large numbers of average Soviet citizens actually laughed at Stalin's government. At various times Stalin had been praised, maligned, worshiped, cursed, feared, and hated, but the Terioki performance made him an object of ridicule for many streetcar conductors, plumbers, and other ordinary citizens. (19: 101)

5) The defection and noncoopereration of Arvo Tuominen
As noted previously, Tuominen's defiance of Politburo orders to accept the premiership of a highly illegitimate Communist government helped to unhorse the scheme. This was a remarkable instance of the kind of high-level defection that would be sought among the aggressor's leadership, by a nonviolent defense strategy.

Defender's strength:
1) Sisu
Peculiar to the Finns' national character, but adaptable to the elan of a nonviolent defense posture, would be the quality of sisu. Untranslatable, it has been described as "determination to succeed despite overwhelming obstacles" or a "taciturn Finnish self-confidence, resembling the American 'can-do' spirit without braggadocio." H.B. Elliston writes that "The miracle of fighting a lost cause as if the cause were going to be won is to be explained in terms of sisu." (2: 365) Elsewhere he describes the "sissi-men":
In Finland they are not what you think they mean, but the bravest of the brave, the corps d'elite, the suicide corps, the men who volunteer to get behind the enemy to do their fighting. (2: 340-41)
Compare, incidentally, a report by Mannerheim showing the kind of bravery a nonviolent defense corps would need, hopefully not wasted in this fashion:
It happened in the initial fighting in December that the Russians would advance in close formation, singing, and even hand in hand, against the Finnish minefields, apparently indifferent to the explosions and the accurate fire of the defenders. (4: 367)

2) Sankarillinen itsemurhe—heroic suicide
This is not kamikaze, bet more in the nature of Patrick-Henry-ism, or perhaps another variation of sisu. Anthony Upton writes, concerning the Finns' defiant diplomatic posture in August 1940 despite lack of German or other outside support:
It was true that the Finnish government was well aware that to fight the USSR in isolation would lead to the country's destruction. But despite what Ryti said about the Finns being realists, they also had astrong idealist-romantic strain in their make up. They genuinely thought death preferable to dishonour, preferred to risk having to go down fighting rather than submit to live in bondage. There was always the hope that something would turn up. Later on, a phrase was coined to describe this attitude, sankarillinen itsemurhe—heroic suicide—and this irrational element in Finnish policy-making deceived Molotov [who thought Germany must be backing them]. (39: 131)

3) Admiration from abroad
The Finns' David-Goliath struggle electrified many other countries and prompted all kinds of assistance, from the editorial to the material, plus many foreign volunteer soldiers. Militarily, all the aid was skimpy and semi-helpful at best, but diplomatically it turned the trick. And however deficient the material aid, this international esteem fortified Finnish morale throughout.

4) Sweden's nonviolent neutrality-defense threat
National self-interest dictated that the Swedes emphatically reject the splay-footed Anglo-French attempt to carry their war effort across Swedish territory. Obviously Britain would  seize their iron mines, and provoke a German attack. The Swedish motives can be faulted or upheld on several different levels. What is important for this discussion is that for good reasons and/or bad, the Swedes decisively threatened to render impossible rail transit by the Allies: and there was no other way to get the expeditionary force through Sweden to Finland! As Tanner was told by Foreign Minister Günther on March 5, "'The whole [Allied] plan is childish. We won't leave a single rail in our ports or on our railways.'" (5: 213; emphasis added.)

And so it was, in this particular geopoIitical case, that the Swedes had it within their power to literally derail an invasion of their homeland by using nonviolent tactics, Q.E.D. The British Chief of the Imperial General Staff, Edmund Ironside, had worried about this from the very outset, and the compiler of his diaries summarized the problem thus:
If, as seemed likely, the Swedes opposed the transit of our troops through their territory, the electric current might be cut off, the railway staff forbidden to co-operate, and the rolling stock removed. (38: 184)
As early as December 28, Ironside himself had noted in his diary "'we may find the electric railway from Narvik out of order for several years at least. Without the railway we cannot go… . (38: 190) The next day he cited the "severe climatic conditions" and the 1ack of any road from Narvik to the iron mines to Finland:
It would be a simple matter for the Norwegians and Swedes to render the railway running inland from Narvik useless to us, either by removal of rolling stock, or the cutting off of electric power. (38: 190)
On February 5 he wrote "what I most fear is a passive resistance—a strike amongs the officiaIs of the railway." (38: 215)

The Swedes were not so defiant when it came to giving the Germans transit rights and iron ore. But this situation does illustrate one of many possibilities available to nonviolent defenders, and its actual application by a successful threat in a complex war crisis.


I hardly suggest that the Finns could have won the Winter War by resort to a Gandhian strategy that is all but unknown today, much less then. Even in a conventional military sense, however, the Finns "lucked out"—luck which was earned to the last drop of blood. What I do suggest is that this type of clue can be abstracted from the Russo-Finnish War and similar cases: adding perspective to doctrines of strategic nonviolent defense against the imposition of alien government by military invasion.

Militarily, Finland lost the Winter War by March 1940, but was able to sue for peace with its morale intact, its democratic government preserved, and its national integrity retained despite large human and territorial losses. National morale is the sine qua non of strategic nonviolent defense. In the Winter War, Finnish morale is the major clue.

* * *

[Part 3: map appendix, from same 1972 paper, previously unpublished]

This set of four sketch maps was adapted and compiled by Gene Keyes in 1972 from various references above:
primarily 3, with additional data from 27, 30, and 32;
then computer-adapted in 2007 with
ClarisWorks 5,
help from Mary Jo Graça, who also assisted with the footnote-frame.
Finland's borders 1920-1940
Map 2, Finnish-Russian negotiation, Oct-Nov 1939.
  Map 3, Winter War, Nov 30, 1939 - Mar 13, 1940
Map 4: USSR seizures from Finland, 1940

Go back to Gene Keyes home page