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Old 02-05-2016, 02:22 PM
 
1,514 posts, read 1,080,272 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by travric View Post
Re: Fighting the Winter War in brutal conditions

In looking at the antagonists I would have expected prior to hostilities there that both Russians and Finns both lived in extremely cold latitudes and existed in environments that I would think be quite similar namely snow, cold, forests and lakes. This would expect both to engage in perhaps very difficult and competitive warfare.
The Russians never mobilized local reservists from rural areas for fear of loyalty problems (many were from Finno Ugaric ethnic groups and were thus related to Finns to varying degrees). One division Soviet troops came from the sunny southeren Ukraine. Even divisions of men from northren Russia were often hastily trained and filled with men from large cities that had never seen the inside of a sub arctic forest.

In short, the way over confident Soviets did not systematically pair their best troops with their invasion. Their best troops combat experience wise were in the Soviet far east. Likewise, units of Siberian natives or siberianized Russians were also kept in the far east along the Manchurian border to guard against a Japanese attack.
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Old 02-05-2016, 02:53 PM
 
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Re: 'Even divisions of men from northren Russia were often hastily trained and filled with men from large cities that had never seen the inside of a sub arctic forest'

Good point. Explains much. If sure looked as Stalin's soldiers did not dot the 'i's and cross the 't's in the Finnish affair. What a bungle and a lack of attention to detail.

On details, I came across a ref which showed that Russians were given a read-up on how to bayonet on skis. Interesting in the light that Finns knew it was very very difficult because of great balance issues. Hard enough to even shoot and fight on skis much less use a bayonet to killing effect. Reading about this 'little' things open up the war in a very big way.
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Old 02-06-2016, 06:22 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by travric View Post
Good point. Explains much. If sure looked as Stalin's soldiers did not dot the 'i's and cross the 't's in the Finnish affair. What a bungle and a lack of attention to detail.
The Soviets were really counting on the Finns following the script the Soviets had written for them. The main theme of the script was that working class Finns would refuse to mobilize. Instead, they would rise up against their oppressors and welcome the Red Army as liberators. There would be very little fighting.

In hindsight, the Soviet script was not totally pulled out of thin air. There had been a very nasty civil war in Finland 20 years earlier. Though both sides committed atrocities, the right wing faction committed more. Even after the civil war, police were known to look the other way (so long as nobody got killed) when right wing militants roamed through working class areas breaking heads .

But, the Finnish government also initiated a lot of social reforms following the civil war. Labor laws were enacted to protect urban workers and in rural areas, exploitive share cropper "contracts" were voided. Communist Finns who defected to the USSR did not mention these changes and greatly exaggerated the social tensions in Finland. This just reinforced the Soviet belief that the script was going to be followed.
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Old 02-06-2016, 07:16 AM
 
Location: Type 0.7 Kardashev
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The Winter War is a classic example of how a much smaller power defeats a much larger power.

Way too many people - even on this forum, where posters should know better - think that wars are simply comparisons of military strength. Like a game of Risk, where if one players has 18 little yellow plastic pieces and another player has 3 little green plastic pieces, well, yellow is going to win.

This notion assumes that wars are conflicts between militaries. They are not. Wars are political conflicts in which military forces are but one of the tools used by the respective conflicting states. And, being political conflicts, all sorts of issues that have nothing to do with bullets and bombs necessarily weigh on the outcome.

This is why the USSR lost in Afghanistan, why the U.S. lost in Vietnam, why the Falklands War was a much closer-run war than most post-war assessments acknowledge, and why the Finns were able to fight the Soviets to terms and retain their independence in the spring of 1940.

Very few wars are fought to the complete conquest of one power or another. The usual conclusion to an armed conflict is that one or the other power reaches a point where it is no longer willing to pay the various prices of continuing the conflict, where it decides that it is better off cutting its losses. They fold and go home. That's what the Finns did - they exacted enough of a price, both military and political, that Stalin was willing to settle for much less than he'd sought when launching the war. To be sure, the USSR made gains in the war. But they utterly failed in their objective of occupying the whole of Finland and controlling whatever state they would have installed. Could the Soviets have 'won' the purely military conflict? Sure. But the real world isn't a game of Risk, and Stalin had a lot more to consider than just soldiers and their equipment. The Finns knew this, and they created a situation in which settling for relatively small chunks of border real estate, some lease guarantees, and some payments was preferable for Stalin over continuing the fight.
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Old 02-06-2016, 07:30 AM
 
Location: Finland
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Desperate Soviet propaganda. I'll translate the text.



"The butcher Mannerheim"

1910: The Russian Emperor's bloody hireling
1918: The murderer of tens of thousands workers. The butcher of the Finnish people
1939: The gold which Mannerheim extracts from the blood of the Finnish workers and farmers
1940: The English bankers minion, the provocator of the anti-Soviet war


Well, not a very successful campaign.
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Old 02-07-2016, 08:50 PM
 
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Does anybody know if Aland islanders (Swedish speaking, autonomous province of Finland) were mobilized for the Winter War, or the Continuation war? My guess is that they were, but they do seem to be a very autonomous part of Finland.

Last edited by Cryptic; 02-07-2016 at 09:01 PM..
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Old 02-08-2016, 12:10 PM
 
Location: Finland
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cryptic View Post
Does anybody know if Aland islanders (Swedish speaking, autonomous province of Finland) were mobilized for the Winter War, or the Continuation war? My guess is that they were, but they do seem to be a very autonomous part of Finland.
Nope. As the Åland Islands were demilitarised (and still are), the local population served in a local home guard, as naval scouts, sea pilots and operators of lighthouses. Many served in merchant ships, which was their most important input.

Volunteers most likely fought in front-line units, but couldn't find any data on that.
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Old 02-10-2016, 03:47 PM
 
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^^^^^^^
Curious how the Swedish government looked at the volunteers joining Finland against Russia.
I believe Sweden was supposedly 'neutral'. Did the volunteers say complicate anything?
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Old 02-10-2016, 04:35 PM
 
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Inept soviet military leadership slaughtered more Soviet troops than anything else. Soviets wasted uncounted number of troops for variety of silly reasons, like capturing Hill X to commemorate one Soviet holiday or another. Higher ranking Soviet military leadership, as inept as it was, considered to be much prized asset to be rescued at all cost while leaving doomed, leaderless troops behind to be anihilated. I believe Finns encircled and wiped out a Soviet division like that. WW2 would see the same pattern repeating itself over and over. Ineptitude - trouble - abandonment - extrication of the soviet generals and staff officers to lead freshly conscripted divisions. Over and over and over. Soviets kick started this "strategy" in Finland. And, as inhumane and wasteful it was, it won the war against numerically challenged Germans.
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Old 02-11-2016, 08:59 AM
 
Location: Finland
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Quote:
Originally Posted by travric View Post
^^^^^^^
Curious how the Swedish government looked at the volunteers joining Finland against Russia.
I believe Sweden was supposedly 'neutral'. Did the volunteers say complicate anything?
The only countries that supported Finland openly were France and Britain. Sweden issued an upper limit on volunteers (12,000), Norway prevented officers and NCO's enlisting, resulting in a mainly adventurer ragtag army, including even alcoholics. Denmark prohibited all kinds of advertising, but in utmost secrecy sent many professional fighter pilots. Italy sent materiél via Sweden, but didn't issue passports to the volunteers. Therefore only 7 of the 5000 Italians ever reached Finland. Sweden and Norway sent material and monetary aid, but again in utmost secrecy, usually via middle-men and shelf-companies. The roughly 100 US nationals arriving were prohibited by USA to engage in any fighting, but did it nevertheless, mainly as scouts. Also almost 8500 British volunteered, but only 200+ even arrived in Finland before the war's end. Likewise the Hungarian contingent never saw action.

The Soviet intelligence was awful in 1939-1940, and I think they never realised the scale of aid which arrived.
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