Thursday, September 9, 2021

Finland’s Continuation War (1941–1944)

After the Winter War (1939–1940) Finland was caught between Germany and the Soviet Union.

In May-June 1941, a great number of German soldiers settled in northern Finland so that when Germany attacked the Soviet Union on 22 June, there were circa 200,000 German soldiers in northern Finland.

In 1941 the Finnish Army joined Operation Barbarossa in an attempt to reclaim land annexed by the Soviet Union. Nazi Germany attacked against the Soviet Union (to its surprise) on 22 June 1941 with aggressive purpose and massive force, starting the biggest war between two States ever, Operation Barbarossa.

Three days after Operation Barbarossa had begun (i.e., on 25 June), the Soviet air force bombed a number of airfields in Finland, especially those which had been used by Germany in its bombings against the Soviet territory, and some other targets. The Soviet attack gave Finland a handy ground to declare to the world and to its own people that Finland had been subjected again to an armed attack.

On 10 July, Finland attacked in full force over its eastern border. Finnish Army crossed the existing border, and it conquered quite rapidly the territories lost in the 1940 peace treaty. On 1 October 1941, the Finnish forces occupied the capital of Eastern Karelia, Petrozavodsk (Äänislinna), and by December Finland had occupied all of Eastern Karelia with the exception of certain territories in the north.

Rapid Finnish progress in reoccupying lost ground in Karelia during the first few months of the invasion gave way to a more static form of warfare from October 1941.

When Finland was going to invade nearly the whole Eastern Karelia and signed the Anti-Komintern Pact with Germany, Italy and Japan in late November, Great Britain declared war on Finland on June 6, 1941 and the Soviets attacked on June 25, 1941. Finns branded the Soviet Army’s renewed attacks on Finland as the “Continuation War.” This conflict lasted until September 19, 1944.

The Soviet attack threatened to be so strong that the Finnish defense might collapse. After brave fighting, the Finns were able to prevent Soviet breakthrough.

After the German army suffered defeat in 1943’s Battle of Stalingrad, the tide of World War II changed and Finland’s success in the Continuation War began to ebb. In September 1944, the Finnish leadership found it advisable to agree to the peace terms demanded by the Soviet Union.

Germany lost its war and so did Finland, which barely avoided entire occupation by the Soviet Army and succeeded in September 1944 in concluding an armistice with the Soviet Union. Finland lost some more territories and was subjected to many obligations and restrictions in the 1947 Paris Peace Treaty, dictated by the Allies.

Finland managed to emerge from the war as a wounded but sovereign state: unlike any other warring country in continental Europe, with the obvious exception of the Soviet Union, Finland was never occupied by a foreign power.

In the battles of the Continuation War over 60,000 Finnish soldiers and 200,000 Russian soldiers died.
Finland’s Continuation War (1941–1944)

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