THE WINTER WAR: The Russo-Finnish Conflict, 1939-1940 by Eloise & Lauri A. Paananen Engle

THE WINTER WAR: The Russo-Finnish Conflict, 1939-1940

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Standard histories of World War II tend to treat the Russo-Finnish ""Winter War"" which lasted from November 30, 1939 to the middle of March, 1940 as a kind of prelude or sideshow to the main event, but at the time the plight of the valiant Finns, invaded by the Russian giant, aroused worldwide sympathy -- leading in fact to the ouster of the USSR from the League of Nations. The public outrage (which stopped just short of armed intervention) didn't help the Finns much: as this brief history of the war shows, the Russians eventually imposed a brutal settlement on Finland including cession of strategic territories. The authors do not provide much political background to the conflict -- an outgrowth of the Hitler-Stalin nonaggression pact of August, 1939 and of Russian fears for the defense of Leningrad -- but they have produced a cogent if deliberately heartrending narrative of the war's progress. And the story of how for three months tiny Finnish ski patrols conducted guerrilla warfare (they gave the Molotov cocktail its name) against Russian panzers is intrinsically exciting. Though the Russians won they botched the operation terribly -faltering and stumbling on the frozen ice fields and suffering terrific humiliation. As witness to how miserably the Reds fared the authors summon no less an authority than Nikita Khrushchev whose 1970 memoirs claim that approximately one million Russians perished during the hostilities. Besides Khrushchev the authors' sources are chiefly ex-officers in the Finnish Army, some of whom personally participated. Non-Finns may find the nationalist thumpings a bit excessive but everyone who enjoys seeing the Little Guy trip up the Big Bully will cheer the solider-skiers on.

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1972
Publisher: Scribners