Wikijunior:World War II/The Winter War

The Soviet attack and Finnish defence

The Winter War began in November 1939 when the Soviet Union attacked Finland. The Soviet army was much larger than the Finnish army with four times as many soldiers and 200 times as many tanks. But the Finns were fighting to defend their own homes and the Soviet army had many new soldiers who were still learning. This meant the Finns were able to keep the fight going for longer than anyone thought possible. The war didn't end until March 1940 and even then Finland wasn't completely beaten.

Before the war


The Soviet Union had been trying to take some of Finland for its own use, where it wanted to build a base for its warships. Finland said, "No." So the Soviets wanted to fight the Finns for the land. They decided to lie. The Soviets fired their artillery (very large guns) at one of their own towns and said that the Finns had done it. They did this so that they would have an excuse for fighting the Finns. The Soviet Union was much, much bigger than Finland, and nobody thought Finland would last long in a war. Soviet army leaders estimated, that Helsinki (capital of Finland) would be taken in two weeks.

The war starts


In the first attack, nearly three-quarters of a million Soviet soldiers fought the Finns, who had less than one-quarter of a million men in their army. The Soviets thought they would win easily, but they were surprised! They found it really hard to beat the Finns. The country was covered with snow, and the Finns were brilliant skiers. They would ski into battle, shoot at the Soviets, then ski away before the Soviets got a chance to fight back. They also attacked camps and kitchens so that the Soviets had no hot food and no warm place to sleep. At the time of the war, it was winter, and the temperature in Finland was -40 degrees Celsius. That's as cold as the North Pole!

Well camouflaged Finnish soldiers

The Finns wore white clothes so they were hard to see in the snow, but the Soviet clothes were all black and brown so they were easy to see and shoot.

Instead of the Soviets winning easily, it began to look like the Finns might win. In one amazing battle the Soviets lost nearly 25,000 soldiers as well as 43 tanks, 260 lorries and loads of guns. The Finns only lost 800 men!

Norwegian volunteers in Finland

Because the war was going so well for Finland, other countries started thinking about helping. Some of these countries were Sweden, Norway, Britain and France. Some brave men volunteered to help, but the rulers of the other countries couldn't make up their minds whether or not to send their armies.

End of the war


As winter ended, the Finnish army was becoming really tired. Although the Soviets had lost far more soldiers than the Finns, they still had many more they could send. The Finns began to lose hope. They'd even begun to run out of bullets for their guns. At this time Sweden, which is next door to Finland, said it wouldn't help. So the Finns decided to discuss giving up with the Soviets, and the Soviets agreed.


The land Finland had to cede to the Soviet Union to end the war

Finland had to give up the land the Soviet Union wanted in order to end the Winter War. In the war, the Soviet Union had sent over one and a half million men to Finland. Some people think one million of them were killed, although some other people think it could have been a lot less. The Finns also destroyed 1,000 aircraft and more than 2,000 tanks. Finland lost about 20,000 men. Because the Finns did not easily give up, they were able to defend their country for a long time. The Finns were brave, but unfortunately they lacked the resources to win the war.