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There is a column in today's Helsingin Sanomat entitled "Russia is trying to forget the Winter War". How can Russians forget something they don't know about?

The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has begun to rewrite history. In a recent official account of the events that led to the Second World War Stalin's wise and peace-loving policies are praised but the Winter War and the occupation of the Baltic countries are forgotten.

The document appeared on the website of the ministry about ten days ago. The tale begins with the securement of the Soviet Union's northwestern border. To accomplish that, an agreement regarding military bases in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania was signed in the autumn of 1939.

However, the Winter War, which the Soviet Union began on 30 November 1939 against Finland, isn't mentioned at all. The war is briefly mentioned as "a conflict" when the account complains about the hostile attitude of the USA during the "conflict". The "hostility" manifested itself as an embargo on American trade with the Soviet Union.

According to the account, an election was held in the Baltic states in July 1940 and "forces loyal to the Soviet Union won". It fails to mention that the countries were all occupied, the occupier arranged the elections, the votes were cast under the vigilant eye of the occupier, voting was in effect compulsory and that only one leftist list of candidates approved by the occupier was allowed.

The newly elected parliaments sent a request to be made Soviet republics to the Soviet Union's parliament, and in August 1940 this request was agreed to.Emotion: big smile

As today's Russians cannot possibly know about the Winter War, I'll mention a few things. The Soviets were understandably worried about Hitler and wanted to secure Leningrad by having military bases in southern Finland. This would have enabled them to control the movement of military vessels in the Gulf of Finland, a leg of the Baltic Sea. Finland rejected the Soviets' proposals and consequently the Soviet Union began a war on Finland. The Russian version about the start of the war was that Finland had fired cannon balls from Mainila across the Finno-Soviet border. There were no cannons anywhere near Mainila.

More than 400,000 Russian soldiers were ordered to cross the border and attack Finland. They were backed by 2,000 tanks and lots of fighter planes. About 3,500 volunteers from Sweden came to help Finland. As peace-loving Stalin had executed 90 percent of his generals in the 1930s, there were very few capable generals left. The Russian officers had to shoot many of their own soldiers in the back to make the rest advance into Finnish territory.

Stalin had thought that a couple of shots would make Finland surrender, but he was proved wrong in the initial stages of the war. Tens of thousands of Russians died in the war. Temperatures often fell down to -40C and the Russians were ill-prepared for that. Many of them couldn't ski. However, if one looks at a map, one can easily tell who will prevail. Finland didn't have a large enough army to resist the Russians indefinitely. In late January 1940 Stalin amassed 750,000 soldiers for the "conflict" and Finland was forced to surrender in March and to pay a heavy price for the war: many people had to leave their homes as Finnish territory was ceded to the Soviet Union.

Nikita Khrushchev said in his memoirs: "A victory at such a cost was a moral defeat. Our people never knew we had suffered a defeat because they were not told the truth." In 1988 Russians admitted that they had started the Winter War. President Medvedev doesn't know it, though. He is as ignorant as the man in the street. About a year ago he said that the Soviet Union or Russia "has never begun a war".

CB
Comments  
Finland didn't surrender. They kept fighting until Russians and Germans had left their country.
AnonymousFinland didn't surrender. They kept fighting until Russians and Germans had left their country.
Wrong. Finland surrendered twice to the Soviet Union: the Winter War and the Continuation War. After that the Finns had to drive the Germans out of Finland. After the Winter War Finland had teamed up with Germany in the hope of getting back the land we had had to cede to the Russians after the Winter War.

CB