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The Russo-Finnish War saw the tiny Finnish Army take on the might of Stalin’s gigantic Red Army. Despite the overwhelming odds, Finland miraculously resisted for three months with little outside assistance, but was eventually forced to sign a peace treaty which ceded 11 per cent of her territory to Russia.
There was mistrust between the two countries. Finland believed Russia wanted to expand into her territory and Russia feared Finland would allow herself to be used as a base from which Russia’s enemies could attack. Finland declared herself neutral at the start of the Second World War, but Russia demanded concessions. Finland delayed, using the time to mobilise her army and seek help from Sweden and the Western Allies, but with little success.
A faked border incident gave Russia the excuse to invade on 30 November 1939. The Red Army was ill-equipped, unable to deal with the Finnish terrain and winter weather, and were poorly led. Though small and under-resourced, the Finnish Army was resilient, well-led and was able to use knowledge of the terrain to good effect. However, it was only a matter of time before the balance of power tipped in Russia’s favour.
The Russians came back strongly. Their command structure was reorganised, modern equipment was brought in and there was a badly needed change of tactics and personnel. By early February 1940, the Finnish Army was exhausted and their defensive lines eventually overrun. Outside help never materialised. Finland was forced to sign the Treaty of Moscow on 12 March 1940.
The Finnish Lahti L-35 service pistol was designed by Aimo Lahti and produced at the Finnish state rifle factory (VKT). Its design and development was prolonged over a tne-year period from 1929 onwards. As a result, only very few Lahti pistols were in service in time for the Soviet invasion of 1939. However, it gained a good reputation for reliability in the challenging conditions under which the war was conducted on the Finnish Front.
weapons and ammunition
Vyacheslav Molotov, the Soviet Foreign Minister, at the signing of the non-aggression pact between two countries, 23 August 1939. The pact was, in reality, the agreement of the partition of Europe between the Soviet Union and Germany. It was also the reason why Germany could not come to Finland’s aid, despite their friendship.
Badge worn by a Danish member of the Volunteer Brigade in Finland against Russia, 1939-1940. Following the Soviet invasion of Finland on 26 November 1939, the Finnish government appealed to the League of Nations for assistance. Denmark was one of the countries that sent a small contingent of volunteers, although the war had ended before they were ready for front line action.
uniforms and insignia
The Finns held Russian Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov responsible for the outbreak of the Russo-Finnish War and named an improvised incendiary grenade after him. This was essentially a bottle containing flammable liquid. The Molotov Cocktail grenade proved to be a primitive but effective anti-tank weapon against the Russian forces.
weapons and ammunition