Mark Solonin. 25 June. Stupidity or aggression? Part 4



The aviation strike on Finland, which occurred 25—26 June 1941, was at least sometimes mentioned in especially thick books by Soviet historians. However, practically nothing was written about offensive actions of the Red Army land forces in the Finnish territory. And nevertheless, such actions had taken place in July 1941. Or, to be more accurate, they had begun but were interrupted “in the very run-up”. It is necessary to recall about them as they will be equally demonstrative for estimates of the real battle readiness of the Red Army vintage 1941 as the results of a “crushing blow on Finnish airdromes”.

The main strike force in the 23rd army unfolded on the Karelian Isthmus was 10th mechanized corps (commander Major General I.G.Lazarev). As all other Red Army mechanized corps, the 10th mechanized corps comprised three divisions: two tank (21st tank division and 24th tank division) and one motorized (198th mechanized division). Most battle-ready division in the corps was 21st tank div. formed on the basis of 40th Red Banner tank brigade — a veteran of the “winter war” engagements. A weak link in the 10th mechanized corps was 24th tank division formed on the basis of 11th reserve tank regiment from which it accepted very rundown hardware: BT-2—133 units and BT-5—94 units, total of 227 tanks vintage 1932—1934. As for the 198th motorized division, it had only several dozen in working order tanks (under the organization chart tank regiments in motorized divisions had to have 258 units). It was in actuality a regular rifle division with unusually large numbers of automobile transport.

As was already noted, pre-war operative plans of the western military districts (including Leningrad VO) have not been published. That is why about specific tasks set for the Northern front’s 23rd army one may only guess. Nevertheless, taking into account the concentration behind the 50th rifle corps front of main 23rd army reserves (10th mechanized corps, 70th rifle division) and the inclusion in 50th rifle corps of three artillery regiments RGK (101st, 108th, 519th) out of four, one may assume that under the Soviet command plans the main events of “active defence” should have occurred in a corridor between the coast of the Gulf of Finland and Vuoksi River (see map No. 6).

The same intent was ascribed to the adversary. We read in 23rd army ledger of combat activities (record from 23 June): “Adversary continues intense concentration of troops to the international border, mostly in the direction Lappeenranta — Vyborg and Hamina (settlement on the coast of the Gulf of Finland, 30 km from borders. - M.S.) — Vyborg, and also in areas of Lakes Purayarvi and Yakola (i.e., between Imatra and Enso. — .), pulling in moto-mechanized units(TSAMO, fund 377, list 10877, case 42, sheet 3). Later we will see that such evaluation of the situation and adversary grouping turned out deeply erroneous.

On the eve of war divisions of the 10th mechanized corps were deployed in southern suburbs of Leningrad (Pushkin, Pavlovsk, Gatchina). For the advancement in the unfolding area behind the front of 50th rifle corps (in a triangle Vyborg — Heinioki — Kyamyarya) tank divisions would have to run under their own steam 170—180 km. This task happened to be very difficult for them. Even for the 21st tank division prepared and equipped better than others the march took two days and tanks expended 14—15 engine hours. It clearly testifies that substantial part of the “march” was waiting in jams. In one of two division’s tank regiments (42nd tank regiment) by 1300 hours 24 June in the concentration area arrived 75 tanks out of 91 (TSAMO, fund 3019, list 1, case 2, sheet 6). 16 tanks remained on the way due to various technical defects.

24th tank division literally fell apart on the march. 49 tanks (22 BT-2 and 27 BT-5) came out of order and were left in place of division’s permanent deployment. At 1500 hours 23 June on the raid went 178 tanks, out of which by the end of day 26 June to the stated unfolding area crawled only 92 tanks. Out of those, combat-ready were only 62. “Their maintenance was hampered by the absence of tools and spare parts(TSAMO, fund 3444, list 1, case 29, sheet 13). Yes, with tools and spare parts in this division always were big problems. And not only with tools: “...Both cold vehicle parks needed capital repairs of the roof and installation of new doors. Vehicles, for which there was no room in the parks, stood under the open sky and were impossible to cover due to the absence of tarpaulin... In the stationary plant out of mechanical equipment, there were two run-down lathes and one run-down drilling machine... Combat and auxiliary vehicles, except those received from Izhora factory 17 armoured vehicles “BA-10”, were not equipped with on-board individual set of spare parts, tools and other items. Missing for the repairs of combat and auxiliary vehicles were cranks, caterpillar tracks, on-board clutches, starters, batteries, half-axles, intermediate exhaust pipes, exhaust collectors and washers for them, spring shock absorbers and dampers...” (Khomyakov, 2006).

We quoted this long excerpt from a monograph devoted to a short history of the 24th tank division mostly because of the publication date of this book — 2006. The young author in the best form reproduced and even expanded on the tradition of “Yaroslavna lamentation” formed in the classic Soviet historiography. Judging by a long list of missing pipes, washers, doors and tarpaulin, war became for this military unit an overwhelming surprise. About the same as a sowing season and harvesting campaign each year surprised by their unexpected coming kolkhoz machine-tractor stations. But there was one big difference: Machine-tractor stations were sometimes located in deep Siberian taiga, a hundred kilometres to the closest railway station, whereas the 24th tanks division suffered from absent wrenches and screwdrivers 20 km from Leningrad, largest centre of the military industry in the USSR. And there were in Leningrad military district not thousand and one but only four tank divisions...

To the amazing “order in tank units” Military Council of the Northern front at last paid its attention 28 June 1941. That day front’s Military Council issued order No. 143532 specially devoted to the march of the 24th tank division: March of the 24th tank division in the concentration area was poorly organized. The division arrived in the area unprepared for fulfilling the combat task. Most combat vehicles were abandoned along the way. Only on the segment Pargolovo Kivennapa 25.6.41 as of 1800 hours were standing out of order or without fuel 39 division’s vehicles... The vehicles were left on the road without rendering technical help and crew and left to their own devices. Commanders of the division and of regiments did not take timely measures for finding and rendering technical help to lagging behind vehicles. No concern was also shown about the personnel of these vehicles. They remained without food supplies and ate accidentally (exceptionally bread) from the coming-by units...” (TSAMO, fund 3444, list 1, case 1, sheet 52).

It is worth it to pay attention to the phrase about “the absence of fuel”. Wheel-track tanks BT had fuel range of more than 200 km on tracks and more than 400 km on wheels. From Pavlovsk to Vyborg they could run without a single refuelling on march... Fortunately, all this was going on in own territory, without any interference from air or onland adversary. Eventually, the lagging behind vehicles were refueled, burnt pipes and washers were replaced, and 28 June in the division came 49 relatively new BT-5 tanks (TSAMO, fund 3019, list 1, case 2, sheet 51). A result: by 28 June 1941 in the concentration area of the 24th tank division there were already 177 tanks, 33 armoured vehicles, 324 automobiles of all types and purposes, 15 radiostations (not counting tank’s), and also 6,895 people of the personnel (ibid).

10th mechanized corps’ tanks did not have to wait long in the concentration area. As soon as the 10th mechanized corps turned out in “the arm reach” of the 23rd army command, all statutes, instructions, all the pre-war theory about massive utilization of tanks within large mechanized groupings, all lessons of the German westward “Blitzkrieg” multiply studied in headquarters drills, — all these were immediately rejected and forgotten.

Ten armored automobiles BA-10 “for the protection of the army headquarters”, five tanks “for activities together with 115th rifle division ”, tank battalion of 24 vehicles “to the disposal of 43rd rifle division commander”, tanks company of 10 vehicles  “ to the disposal of 19th rifle corps commander”, tank battalion of 2 companies (20 tanks BT) “for strengthening of 123rd rifle division”, five tank platoons of three-vehicle structure from every division “for the antitank defence in the corridor of rifle corps”, flak battery of the 24th tank division “to cover 23rd army headquarters” ...

Strange job was conducted in the corridor of 123rd rifle divisions by pontoon-bridge battalion of the 24th tank division. The 123rd rifle division was deployed on the left flank of 23rd army (see map No. 13). In the defence corridor of this division runs a small forest rivulet Tervayoki. A very small obstacle in the way of the adversary who (as was assumed in 23rd army headquarters) will be attacking, and with tanks, from the direction Hamina — Vyborg. But military sappers know many ways to fortify natural river barrier. Paragraph 409 of the Field Book PU-39 gives such instruction: “Defensive capabilities of a river may be strengthened, beside artificial raising the water level (swamping), by a system artificial barriers (increase in steepness of shores, laying mines and setting barbed wire obstacles in water, etc.)”. However, sappers of the 24th tank division got busy not with increase in “steepness of shores” but with constructing a bridge over Tervayoki (Khomyakov, 2006). What for? Nothing is said about this in the documents known to the author.

Be it as it may, but by the end of June 1941 units and groupings of 10th mechanized corps unfolded in the areas indicated to them, put the combat technology in order after a multi-day march; command personnel conducted detailed reconnaissance of the locality. Now it was the time to act.

During the night of 1 on 2 July occurred several multidirectional events and were issued several different combat orders, which are quite difficult to tie up into a single picture.

In 21st tank division “Ledger of combat activities” (TSAMO, fund 3019, list 1, case 7-) we read: “...at 2400 hours 1.07.1941 to the command point of the division headquarters arrived 10th mechanized corps commander Major General Com. Lazarev and set a task: to form an intelligence group of tank company, moto rifle company and fire-throwing tank platoon. The task is to cross the border in area ENSO and further, acting in the direction ENSO — IMATRA, to conduct combat intelligence in the area YAKOLA (settlement on the road between Enso and Imatra. - M.S.), IMATRA, TAINIOKOSKI station and establish the force, composition and grouping of the adversary.

At 0140 hours of 2.7.1941 was set the task and received the combat order by head of the intelligence group of the 21st intelligence battalion (intelligence battalion of the 21st tank division) commander Captain Zhidkov... The task under division’s order: at 0600 hours 2.7. to cross the border in the area ENSO and to conduct combat intelligence in the area  YAKOLA, IMATRA, TAINIOKOSKI station and to establish the force, composition and grouping of the adversary. By way of of capturing soldiers to establish numbering of the adversary units, after capturing IMATRA station, to blow it up and by fire-throwing tanks to set the forest on fire. In a case of successful action and capturing YAKOLA, IMATRA, TAINIOKOSKI stationhold them until arrival of our infantry (emphasis added - M. S.)”.

Offensive reconnaissance is conducted only with one goal — for a preparation to subsequent offensive. In this case this military axiom is additionally confirmed by the order to hold the captured lines to the arrival of our infantry”. It is very important to emphasize that the decision to conduct offensive intelligence in the direction of Imatra was not at all the initiative of the 21st tank division commander. The task was set by the corps commander who personally arrived to the division’s command point at midnight. Moreover, the 10th mechanized corps commander was not acting on his own initiative. In the 23rd army Ledger of combat activities in the description of 2 July 1941 events is discovered such record: Combat intelligence organized on a personal order of Komandarm (emphasis added - M. S.) in the direction of Imatra by a tank group of the 10th mechanized corps and two battalions of the moto rifle regiment, during the second half of the day crossed the border” (TSAMO, fund 377, list 10877, case 42, sheet 7).

A noticeable discrepancy in the structure of the intelligence group (in one document it is “moto rifle company” and “two battalions” — in the other) immediately finds its explanation in the following fragment from the 21st tank division Ledger of combat activities. “...According to instructions from the 10th mechanized corps commander [received] from Komandarm-23, the intelligence group must include the infantry of 115th rifle division up to a battalion (emphasis added - M. S.). The 115th rifle division artillery [is ordered] to support the intelligence group actions by 4 battalions. The entire job of organizing these issues lingered to 1000 hours 2.7.1941, and the infantry battalion of the 115th rifle division eventually was not included on the intelligence group. At 1030 hours 2.7. the intelligence group crossed the international border on the highway from ENSO in the direction of IMATRA in its old composition with the support of 115th rifle division artillery...” (TSAMO, fund 3019, list 1, case 7-).

Planned (although not implemented) inclusion in the intelligence group of a 115th rifle division rifle battalion as well as planned and implemented participation of 115th rifle division artillery are also confirmations that the offensive intelligence in Imatra direction was organized at least on the level of 23rd army command. The 115th rifle division was part of the 19th rifle corps and was not subordinated to 10th mechanized corps commander (and even more so, to 21st tank division commander).

In the same hours when on the Soviet side of the border began the preparation to offensive intelligence, in the area of the 2nd Finnish infantry division, in the corridor from Parikkala station to Ristalakhti (see map No. 13) began a similar operation. The general offensive of the Finnish “Karelian army” on the Onega-Ladoga Isthmus began only 10 July 1941. However, several days before the beginning of full-scale combat activities the Finnish command decided, apparently, to conduct offensive intelligence in the direction Lakhdenpokhya. In the future that was exactly there, at contact of the 23rd and 7th Soviet armies, the Finns several times tried to come to the shore of Lake Ladoga, to cut a railway branch Hiitola — Lakhdenpokhya — Sortavala and to sever the supply line of the 7th army. Therefore, the direction of offensive intelligence by the Finns early in July was quite expedient.

The sources known to the author do not reveal, unfortunately, the data about which exactly forces were used to conduct this offensive intelligence. Strictly speaking, combat activities 1—7 July in the area Esko — Meriya — Ristalakhti are not mentioned at all in any reviewed work about the history of the 2nd Soviet-Finnish war. All authors (both Soviet and western) unanimously and without collusion begin the description of events of war since 10 July 1941.           Most likely, offensive intelligence was conducted only by some forces of the 2nd infantry division. Whereas in the Red Army headquarters documents are found most diverse estimates of the adversary numbers: “1.7.1941 adversary, up to 2 infantry brigades (6th and 7th) passed into offensive directing the main strike on Meriya in the area of the 461st rifle regiment (right-flank regiment of the 142nd rifle division). By the end of the day took Esko... During the day 2.7. the adversary forces of at least 4 infantry regiments (which is approximately two brigades. - M.S.) continued the offensive. By the end of the day took Meriya. Adversary attack on Ristalakhti was unsuccessful...” (TSAMO, fund 377, list 10877, case 42, sheet 6, 7). This is a record in the 23rd Army Ledger of combat activities. In a combat order by the 24th tank division headquarters No.5 of 0550 hours 2 July we read: “Adversary, up to two infantry divisions during the day and night 1.07 pressed our forward units on the front Ristalakhti—Parikalla...” (TSAMO, fund 3444, list 1, case 11, sheet 112).

The 24th tank division was on the opposite (left) flank of the 23rd army front. Information about adversary grouping operating in the area Esko — Ristalakhti it could get only from the superior headquarters (of course, in this case is not understandable how two brigades turned into two divisions). Contrary to that, 198th motorized division of the 10th mechanized corps was (as we will show later) redeployed in the Elisenvaara area and took most direct participation in fighting engagements at Esko — Meriya. In 198th mechanized division headquarters documents, established numerical strength of the adversary is steadily lowered:

— Combat order No. 08 (2300 hours 3.7) “Adversary, up to two infantry brigades, pressed 461st rifle regiment and took one battalion area, suffering huge losses...”

Operative summary No. 7 (0800 hours 5.7) In front of the division operates adversary’s infantry brigade...”

— Operative summary No. 8 (2400 hours 5.7) In front of the division are defending up to 3 battalions of Finns, supposedly of 7th infantry brigade...

Interesting evaluation of adversary’s numbers and plans is discovered in a recent (2006) work of a Russian historian:

“...29 June were noted first manifestations of Finnish army activity on the Karelian Isthmus, and in the night on 1 July up to two infantry battalions with tanks wedged in our defensive orders on contact between 19th and 50th rifle corps in the Lakhdenpokhya area, with the task to break through to the western coast of Lake Ladoga, isolate from one another the 7th and 23rd armies and in the future to destroy them piece by piece...” (, 2006).

Problem is even not in that the “contact of 19th and 50th rifle corps” is brought in “Lakhdenpokhya area”, — it may be considered a deplorable blooper, — but in an amazing evaluation of the combat potential of “hot Finnish lads” who with two infantry battalions intended “to destroy piece by piece” two Soviet armies! All this would be laughable — except that in July 1941 the 23rd army command evaluated the events almost the same way. A local Finns’ outing on the right flank of the army caused big turmoil in its headquarters.

We read in the 23rd army Ledger of combat activities: For the liquidation of the breakthrough and restoration of the situation in the area of 461st rifle regiment the Komandarm decided to use 10th mechanized corps...”  Such decision completely corresponded with all pre-war plans and statutes — a mechanized corps in defence was supposed to be used for carrying out of a smashing blow on the adversary, which broke in depth of army combat orders. Usually this was phrased so: “by a strike in the flank and rear, to encircle, destroy and not to allow the withdrawal back, in the adversary territory”. However, the 23rd army command decided “to use 10th mechanized corps” it its previous way — by continuing “to take apart” the mechanized corps.

198th motorized division was completely taken out of the subordination to the mechanized corps command and received an order by the end of 2.7.1941 to concentrate along the railway in area AntolaSayrala in readiness to the actions in the direction of 142nd rifle division and 115th rifle division”. At that, this decision was made during the night, in extreme hassle and haste, “over the head” of the 10th mechanized corps commander. 198th mechanized division Commander just had to inform his direct head: “Based on instructions from head of 23rd army headquarters, the division is transferred in its subordination and from 0800 hours 2.7.1941 is advancing in the area Sayrala — Elisenvaara” (Combat report No. 02 of 0430 hours 2 July). Then, in the night 2 on 3 July, the turn came to “take apart” the main strike force of the 10th mechanized corps – 21st tank division. That is how it is written in division’s Ledger of combat activities. “At 2330 hours 2.7.1941 to the division headquarters arrived head of the 23rd army headquarters automobile-tank directorate Major General Lavrinovich and in the name of the Komandarm set the following task to the division. One tank regiment (50 line and 16 firethrowing tanks with 2 ammunition allowances, 2 fuel allowances and 2 days of food supplies to be loaded on KHINILA station and sent in the area ELISENVAARA at the disposal of 198th mechanized division commander. To complete loading by 2400 hours 2.7 /clearly unrealistic time-wise/... such task time-wise was completely unreal. However, 41st tank regiment (41 tank with 2 ammunition allowances and 2 fuel allowances) by 0100 hours 3.7 was loaded on 50 platforms and at 0115 hours 3.7 the echelon started to ELISENVAARA...”

So, taking into account tank platoons and tank companies transferred earlier to rifle units of 23rd army, 21st tank division “lost” already 95 tanks and 10 heavy cannon armoured automobiles BA-10. And with all this the task of capturing Imatra station was not at all removed! The same night 2 on 3 July arrived in 21st tank division headquarters Major General Lavrinovich ordered: “The rest of the division under its own power by 0400 3.7 to concentrate in the area ENSO and at 0600 hours 3.7. to begin offensive on IMATRA with the task to invade IMATRA and isthmus between lakes IMALANYARVI, SAYMA holding the latter until the approach of rifle units” (TSAMO, fund 3019, list 1, case 7-).

As for the third division of the 10th mechanized corps (24th tank), it was practically inactive. In the morning (at 0550 hours) 2 July the division received an order “to concentrate by 0800 hours in the area of Tali station”. With some delay (judging by a combat report from the division headquarters No. 6 — by 1300 hours 2 July) 24th tank division arrived in the area of a railway station Tali, i.e., moved approximately 10— 15 km from the previous concentration place, as previously being outside the zone of combat activities (TSAMO, fund 3444, list 1, case 11, sheet 115). Thus, the main task of the 10th mechanized corps (capture of Imatra railway station and adjacent narrow isthmus between the international border and Saima lake system) now had to be solved by only one 21st tank division. And mind you, this division, without a single shot on the adversary, “lost” already almost half of its tanks. On the other hand, to be objective, it is necessary to recognize that 21st tank division was not demanded to repeat “Suvorov’s crossing Alps”. From near-border Enso to Imatra was only 8 (!) km, and the forces of the parties on the front of the upcoming offensive (12th and 18th Finnish infantry divisions on the one side, 43rd and 115th Red Army rifle divisions — on the other) were approximately equal.

As was already noted, the first attempt to capture Imatra station took place in the morning of 2 July. The intelligence group (10 tanks -26) from the intelligence battalion of the division, one platoon of fire-throwing tanks (3 tanks -26) from 42nd tank regiment and one moto rifle companiy from 21st moto rifle regiment at 0220 hours crossed Vuoksi River on the bridge north of station Antrea, at 0730 hours concentrated in the area of Enso and at 1030 hours crossed the border. Descriptions of the following events in different documents are not quite the same. We read in the 21st tank division Ledger of combat activities: “Results of combat intelligence. The intelligence group with fighting advanced 3—4 km in the depth of Finnish territory and reached the northern slopes of hill 107.5, south of IMATRA. At this entire length the adversary almost did not render resistance.

At the hill 107.5 the adversary met the intelligence group by fire, 1 tank got a hole from a large calibre machine gun (killed Lieutenant Litvin, wounded turret shooter). Captured Finnish soldier, from killed German officer (???) are taken valuable documents. Observation of the intelligence group established that hill 107.5 is well defended by the adversary, there are facilities/obvious earth-and-timber emplacements”.

CONCLUSION: The intelligence group did not accomplish its task, did not reach IMATRA, did not put adversary forest on fire , just established that this area is defended by insubstantial adversary forces (emphasis added - M. S.).

The compiled immediately after the engagement (2300 hours 2 July) operative summary from 21st tank division headquarters included such information: “Losses of the intelligence group:2 killed, 7 wounded. Losses in hardware - none. One Finn captured” (TSAMO, fund 3019, list 1, case 2, sheet 98).

An operative summary from 42nd tank regiment headquarters (no number; at 2100 hours 2 July) is refuting extraneously self-criticizing record in the division’s Ledger of combat activities. It turns out the fire-throwing tank platoon of the regiment did have time to put many things on fire: “The platoon together with intelligence group reached Yakola, put the village on fire and moving back to the international borders put the forest on fire” (TSAMO, fund 3019, list 1, case 2, sheet 96).

In any case, with burnt village or without it, the task of capturing Imatra station 2 July was not accomplished.

The next attempt with substantially greater force took place 3 July.

According to an order from the 21st tank division commander Colonel L.V. Bunin were formed three strike groups. The first one (one tank and one moto rifle battalion) must have “advanced to the northeastern outskirt of Imatra and cut the adversary retreat northward”. The second one (two tank companies and moto rifle battalion) must have advanced along the railway directly on Yakola — Imatra. The third group (10 tanks and one moto rifle company) must have advanced along the west bank of Vuoksi River with the task “ to cut adversary westward withdrawal, simultaneously supporting division’s actions from west”. In reserve of the division commander, in the area of the international border at Enso, were bone more tank and one moto rifle battalion. The right neighbour — 115th rifle division — must have supported offensive of the tank division by fire of four artillery battalions (TSAMO, fund 3019, list 1, case 7-).

The future events of day of 3 July are described in 21st tank division Ledger of combat activities and in combat report from headquarters of the 10th mechanized corps as of 1710 hours 4 July as follows (TSAMO, fund 3019, list 1, case 7-; TSAMO, fund 3444, list 1, case 29, sheet 41):

“By 1200 hours the units took initial position for the offensive. Artillery lagged with preparation and began it only at 1300 hours, shooting in an hour 50—55 shells”. Here, apparently, is needed small military-arithmetical information. The most mass type of a rifle division’s artillery regiment armament — a 122 mm howitzer.

The combat rate of fire of these guns according to all reference books is 5—6 rounds a minute. Besides, there is such clearly regulated norm as “Expenditure of munitions per day of stressful engagement”.

For a 122-mm howitzer this expenditure was determined by the pre-war norm at 88 rounds ("Artillery purveyance in the Great Patriotic war...", 1977., internet site www.soldat.ru). Two artillery battalions (24 howitzers) could and must have shot on the adversary head 2 thous. shells during a half hour. 55 shells an hour — it is a slow “bothering fire” (there is such term in artillery) from one gun. Such “fire storm” could have only warned the Finns about the beginning of an offensive...

At 1400 hours 3.7.1941 moto rifle regiment and tanks crossed international border and began the offensive. With crossing the international border, the adversary first showed a weak resistance and our units rapidly advanced forward. By 1800 hours forward companies approached the line of north slope of the hill 107.5—Yakola (i.e., during 4 hours “rapidly advanced” 4—5 km. The people can crawl at such velocity but tanks could not move at such velocity in principle — the -26 gearbox did not have special supplementary gearbox for movement at super low velocity), where were met by organized adversary fire and withdrew somewhat back. By 2200 hours, the situation stabilized on the line: forest path southeast of hill 107.5 - two hats north of YAKOLA – hill 39.5.

4th company of the moto rifle regiment’s 2nd battalion (this was the group, which, moving along western bank of Vuoksi, had to “cut the adversary withdrawal to the west”) met strong adversary resistance, which became an attack, and by 2200 hours the company with fighting withdrew beyond the international border, having lost three tanks (burnt) and one, damaged.

At 1900 hours (exactly this time is indicated in a combat report by 10th mechanized corps headquarters as of 1700 hours 4.7.1941) division commander made decision to withdraw from the engagement(the previous combat report from the 10th mechanized corps headquarters (as of 2200 hours 3.7.1941) said that the decision to arrest the offensive was made by the 10th mechanized corps commander Lazarev who was at the division command point close to the northern outskirt of ENSO) (TSAMO, fund 3444, list 1, case 29, sheet 35).

At 0225 hours 4 July on the division headquarters command point arrived head of 10th mechanized corps headquarters Colonel Zayev with the order from the Komandarm-23 stating that the division must withdraw from engagement and concentrate in ISKI area (settlement 15 km southeast of the border).

At 0230 the adversary, clandestinely going around the flanks of our units, passed in a counteroffensive along the entire division front. The counteroffensive began with strong submachine gun-machine gun fire with the support of mortars and artillery. In such environment the division commander courageously (sic in text of the Journal of combat activity) makes decision to withdraw from the engagement.

By 0400 hours units orderly withdrew from engagement. The adversary three times started to attack but always suffered defeat and was with great losses rebuffed. All attempts of the adversary to encircle our units (i.e., encircle with infantry with two tank battalions) to no avail.

By 1100 hours 4 July the division concentrated in the Yaski area. Killed and wounded were removed. Preliminary estimates are that there were 127 wounded, including 11 people of command personnel. The number of killed is clarified. Damaged tanks were evacuated from the battlefield beside three, which burnt down from adversary fire. As a result of engagement were killed at least 150 White Finns and more than a hundred people wounded”.

The number of killed was clarified the following . The operative summary of the 10th mechanized corps headquarters (No. 22 of 0200 hours 5 July) stated the following numbers (TSAMO, fund 3444, list 1, case 29, sheet 42):

— the tank regiment lost 8 people killed, 4 wounded, 1 missing in action;

— in moto rifle regiment, 45 killed, 90 wounded, 10 missing in action.

Besides, broken by the adversary artillery and mortars” 10 hand machine guns and 35 rifles (TSAMO, fund 3019, list 1, case 7-).

4 July 1941 the 10th mechanized corps’ 24th tank division for the first, only and last time participated in fighting engagements with “White Fins”. But not the entire division and even not one of its regiments, just two platoons from the tank battalion transferred 30 June for the strengthening of the 123rd rifle division. Six BT tanks commanded by Lieutenant Radchenko, together with the 1st battalion of the 255th rifle regiment, conducted fighting intelligence in the Finland territory, in Vilmaa settlement area. The engagement lasted 2 hours, as a result of the engagement was destroyed adversary’s antitank gun and two machine guns. Their losses: damaged 2 tanks, one of them required medium overhaul, the other one restored by the crew; a mechanic-driver wounded(Khomyakov, 2006).

What for was conducted this offensive intelligence, and whether it was somehow connected with throwing bridges over a forest rivulet Tervayoki, is already impossible to find out from documents of the division’s and 10th mechanized corps headquarters. At the time when groupings of the 10th mechanized corps conducted all these strange manoeuvers; at the time when they with desperate effort tried to make 170 km in their own territory; at the time when two regiments of the 21st tank division, led personally by the corps commander, clumsily nuzzled in the defences of “insubstantial adversary forces” on the line “of a forest path and two huts” next to an obscure hamlet Yakola; at the time when on Karelian Isthmus was playing out an absurd quasi-military farce, on distant — so far “distant” — approaches to Leningrad was unfolding an unparalleled military catastrophe.

During first 10 days of war, the Northwestern front (Baltic OVO) troops were totally crushed. German troops occupied the entire Lithuania, most of Latvia and crossed Daugava (West Dvina) River on the front from Riga to Daugavpils and almost without organized resistance advanced to Ostrov and Pskov (see map No. 8). As for the front headquarters, it already 27 June “rebased” in Rezekne, 30 June in Pskov and 5 July — in Novgorod. Disorderly withdrawal tempo of the Northwestern front forces in the first days was so great that the German command took it for in advance planned withdrawal. Head of German land force headquarters F. Halder makes a record 23 June 1941 in his renowned “Military diary”: “...organized withdrawal so far appears to be out of the question. An exception is possibly the area before front of the army group “North” where, apparently, really in advance was planned and prepared a withdrawal beyond West Dvina River. Reasons for such preparation so far could not be established...” (Halder, 1971).

Part of the front, six so-called “national divisions” (179th, 180th, 181st, 182nd, 183rd and 184th rifle divisions created on the base of former Lithuanian, Latvian and Estonian armies) either scattered, killing at this their command personnel, or were hastily and with great “losses” owing to mass desertion withdrawn in the depth of Russia. In Lithuania and Latvia in actuality began armed uprisings of local nationalists, who declared the creation of “Provisional governments” (23 June in Kaunas and 28 June in Riga) (Krysin, 2004). 26 June 1941 in Daugavpils area surrendered into captivity head of Operative directorate of the Northwestern front headquarters Major General Trukhin. (Later Trukhin actively collaborated with Germans, headed Vlasov’s army headquarters and ended his life on the gallows 1 August 1946). Head of the front headquarters Lieutenant General P.S.Klenov was arrested early in July 1941 and shot in October 1941.

3—4 July 1941 head of the Red Army General headquarters operative directorate Lieutenant General N.F. Vatutin, sent to the Northwestern front as plenipotentiary representative of the Supreme Command and locum tenant head of the front headquarters, reported to Zhukov complete list of front units and groupings, which he was able to discover. From the multi-page report is silhouetting a picture of unheard of crush: “...about 11th army (16th rifle corps, 29th rifle corps, 179th and 184th rifle divisions, 5, 33, 128, 188, 126, 23rd rifle divisions, 84th motorized division, 2nd tank division, 5th tank division, 10th artillery brigade, 429th howitzer artillery regiment, 4th and 30th pontoon regiments)— there are no data...

... Status of the 8th army units is described by the following data: 10th rifle division: 98th rifle regiment almost completely destroyed; from 204th rifle regiment remained 30 people without hardware; 30th artillery regiment has one gun; 140th howitzer artillery regiment out of 36 guns lost 21. The units and directorate of 90th rifle division was until now impossible to find. The data about the status of the remaining army units did not arrive...” (Collection of combat documents …" No. 34).

Based on the data of a statistical collection compiled by modern Russian military historians, Northwestern front troops (including new groupings, which entered the front) since 22 June through 9 July 1941 lost 2,523 tanks and 3,560 guns and mortars, 341 thous. units of rifle weapon (Secrecy label removed…, 1993, pg. 122, 165, 167-168, 201). There was practically nothing to fight with. 5 July 1941, signed by Vatutin, was issued “Instruction for fighting adversary tanks”. It obligated to prepare mud-clay for throwing onto observation slits of adversary’s tank” ("Collection of combat documents …" No. 34). To throw mud and clay were supposed the district troops, which only two weeks back had in the inventory 3,319 field guns (all calibres) and 582 flak cannon (Artillery purveyance …, vol.1, 1977, Internet site www.soldat.ru).

By the way, the Red Army Supreme command already did not have any illusions that disparate remains of practically ungoverned Northwestern front would be able to restrain the offensive of German forces. The Supreme Command, in an attempt maybe even slightly to slow down the adversary advance on natural defensive lines of West Dvina and Velikaya Rivers, was feverishly throwing in fighting ever new groupings. 25 June for counterstrike on Manstein’s tank corps broken through to Daugavpils was involved Moscow VO understaffed 21st mechanized corps (planned term to complete the staffing of this corps was in 1942) and even 5th airborn (!) corps, which did not have for fighting tanks either corresponding armament or due preparation.

Then came the turn of Northern front and Baltic Fleet aviation units and groupings. 30 June all three Red Banner Baltic Fleet air force bomber regiments (1st Mine-Torpedo Aviation Regiment, 57th BAR, 73rd BAR) received an order to bomb bridges and crossings over Daugava in the area Jekabpils and Daugavpils. The adversary by that time had already redeployed his fighter aviation groups on former Soviet airdromes in the Baltics (the myth generally accepted in the domestic historiography is that these airdromes were already destroyed, bombed into smithereens, burned and totally put out of commission). However, fighter regiments of the Northern front air force and Baltic Fleet air force remained in previous places of deployment, mostly in the Leningrad airdrome node. As for the Northwestern front fighter aviation (more than 400 crews and 500 in working order aircraft, including 139 most up to date MiG-3 as of 22 June 1941), by 30 June it no longer existed as organized and battle-capable whole (Main air force headquarters, "Soviet aviation in the Great Patriotic war …“, 1962. Declassified in 1992. Quoted from www.ilpilot.narod.ru).

As a result the aviation strike on Daugava crossings 30 June 1941 was organized the same way as the strike on objects in Finland 25 June: without fighter cover and in small groups (5 to 9 bombers). The outcome: not a single bridge was even damaged and out of 99 bombers participated in the operation only 60 returned on their airdromes. German fighter planes shot down 34 aircraft and 5 aircraft performed forced landing. 77 people from personnel of flight crews perished or were missing in action (Morozov, 2002).

At night 2 July (2130 to 2200 hours) 2nd aviation division of the Northern front air force attempted to carry out massive blow on German moto-mechanized convoys in the area Daugavpils — Kraslava — Rezekne. Bombers of the 44th BAR performed 38 sorties, of the 58th BAR, 20 sorties. In operative summary No. 019 from 2nd SAD headquarters and operative summary No. 15 from 44th BAR headquarters this raid is described as follows. “... 14 aircraft SB of 58th BAR dropped from the elevation 200 m on the mechanized convoy 73 bombs FAB-100 and 123 AB-50... 21 aircraft of the 44th BAR bombed convoys of tanks and vehicles. Bombing results are excellent, explosions were observed in the mass of tanks... 16 crews returned on their airdromes with bombs without completing the task due to bad meteo-conditions and non-discovery of the targets. 2 crews dropped bombs based on time calculation due to clouds. 2 crews did not return from assignment fell behind in the target area due to poor meteo-conditions. The crew of Sr. Lieutenant . dropped bombs in the area of Pskov (?), two aircraft were shot down by own flak artillery near Pskov...” (TSAMO, fund 20013, list 1, case 7, sheet 22; TSAMO, fund 20013, list 1, case 11, sheet 71).

4 July in the period of 0950 to 2200 hours bombers of the 41st BAD conducted 42 sorties in the area Daugavpils — Rezekne. Losses — 20 aircraft. 20 out of 42. 6 July, in the period 1700 to 2300 hours “were performed 44 sorties on Dvinsk direction. 20 aircraft did not returned to the base...” (TSAMO, fund 20104, list 1, case 3, sheet 25, 27).

Manstein whose 56th tank corps was first to cross West Dvina writes in his memoirs: “These days the Soviet aviation made all possible to destroy by air raids bridges we captured. With amazing stubbornness, at small elevation one squadron followed the other with the same result — they were shot down”.

We read in final “Report of 2nd AD combat actions in two months of war” signed by the division commander Colonel Arkhangelsky: “...2. Actions in the first month of war by small groups and single aircraft (there was a Directive “not to fly more than one element”) were erroneous and provided the opportunity to destroy us piecemeal. Large targets like big moto-mechanized-convoys were proceeding almost like on parade (Dvinsk, Ostrov ) and required massive activities by the aviation. And for this were available and forces and means.

Characteristic is to note that all what we were taught in the Academy and in firle drills (and we were taught not bad at all), from the first days war was trampled on also replaced by total improvisation” (TSAMO, fund 20013, list 1, case 6, sheet 23-24).

The Directive, really, has been. From the topmost level, at that. 4 July 1941, signed by Zhukov, was issued a Supreme Command Directive (without a number) of the following content:

The Supreme Command ordered:

1. Bombing sorties on objects by large groups of forces is categorically forbidden.

2. From now on sorties for bombing of one target to be conducted simultaneously by no more than an element, in an extreme case, squadron” ("Russian Archive. Great Patriotic…” 1996.).

For hundreds of bomber crews these several lines became the death sentence. After fighter aviation regiments unfolded in the first echelon of the fronts were crushed by a wave of panic “rebasing”, the possibility to organize bomber escort by fighter planes was brought to a minimum. Chaos and collapse of management system of the air force, and of the entire Red Army overall, brought this minimum to zero. If in this situation fliers had some chance to fulfill the combat task and at this to survive, this chance was only in massing forces, in building dense combat orders of large bomber groups, which albeit theoretically could meet the attacking “Messerschmitts” with a wall of powerful machine gun fire. The Supreme Command Directive did not leave for an SB or DB element (3 aircraft) practically any hope to return home after encountering fighter planes of the adversary...

Truth to be told, it is necessary to recognize that the aviation of that epoch — even at its most ideal utilization — was incapable independently to solve the task of destruction the adversary tank convoy. Fire from skies could only to greater or smaller degree help land troops, which had to stop enemy offensive by dogged defence. That is why simultaneously with switching activities of the Northern front air force from “Finnish” to “German” front the Supreme Command began redeploying toward advancing on Rezekne — Ostrov motorized groupings of Wehrmacht's 4th Tank Groups land units of the Northern front.

First were redeployed southwest groupings of the 1st mechanized corps. We will remind that 22—24 June the mechanized corps, having made 200 km along the trajectory Pskov — Luga — Gatchina, concentrated in southern suburbs of Leningrad. 30 June 1941, on the order of the Supreme Command, combat order No. 19 of the Northern front headquarters subordinated the 1st mechanized corps to the Northwestern front Commander (TSAMO, fund 3422, list 1, case 7, sheet 3). 1 July, already on the order of Northwestern front command, from the 1st mechanized corps was withdrawn 163rd motorized division. The division was transferred in operative subordination to the Northwestern front 27th army Commander and received a task to concentrate by forced march in the area Karsava — Rezekne (see map No. 8). The tank regiment of the division (25th tank regiment), which before the war had 229 light tanks -26, received prior to moving on the Northwestern front, one more company of most up-to-date heavy tanks KV. However, due to untimely delivery of rolling stock “first echelons of the 25th tank regiment began arriving on station Rezhitsa (Rezekne) only 3 July 1941 by 1100 hours in the numbers of approximately up to one and a half battalion. The remaining echelons on the way were numerously subjected to bombing and land shooting by the adversary and to 3 July their arrival to the 163rd motorized division was not established” (TSAMO, fund 3422, list 1, case 7, sheet 3).

Be it as it may, at 0500 hours 3 July commander of the 163rd mechanized division Major General Kuznetsov issues a combat order No. 5: By 0700 hours 3.7.1941 the division without 25th tank regiment and 3/365 artillery regiment (3rd battalion of the artillery regiment) takes initial position for the offensive on Dvinsk. The offensive to begin at 0900 hours 3.7.1941... Do not allow in the ranks too much nervousness and panic and also disorderly shooting at aircraft...” (TSAMO, fund 1400, list 1, case 19, sheet 22).

As though the division commander saw it in a crystal ball warning about unacceptability of “too much nervousness and panic”. 163rd mechanized division fought only two days. Division’s archive folder holds half a graph paper sheet from a pupil’s pad, which has the following order written in pencil:

“To Commander, 163rd mechanized division. By the end of 5.7.1941 to gather the division in the area north of Opochka, put in order and prepare defence along the right bank of Velikaya River in the area OpochkaGoryachev(TSAMO, fund 1400, list 1, case 17, sheet 46).

The order signed Commander of the 27th army General Berzarin — future military commandant of Berlin...

One element of “putting in order” became appointment of a new commanding personnel. Under an order (without a number) of 6 July, as locum tenant commander of 759th mechanized rifle regiment was appointed Captain Bushuyev, as locum tenant head of the regiment headquarters, Lieutenant Sukhov, as locum tenant commander of 529th mechanized rifle regiment, Captain Gagin, as locum tenant head of regiment headquarters, Lieutenant Gorelik (TSAMO, fund 1400, list 1, case 19, sheet 25). Appointment of captains and even lieutenants (!) on such positions abundantly describes the state of the division. Already two weeks after the crush, 17 July at 1000 hours, head of the 163rd mechanized division headquarters Colonel Bogdanovich signed operative report No. 31: “The division does not have direct contact with adversary... in division continue to come groups and singles getting out from the enemy rear and lagging behind in the area Rezhitsa (Rezekne) after fierce engagements 3—4 July...

Availability of hardware:

— 335 flak-artillery battalion — without hardware:

— 364 artillery regiment two guns (out of 36 under organization chart. - M.S.);

205 antitank  battalion — three guns (out of 18 under organization chart. - M.S.).

177 intelligence battalion — without hardware” (TSAMO, fund 1400, list 1, case 19, sheet 45).

Nevertheless, the division by several days delayed the German advance. It may be seen albeit by the following excerpt from Manstein's memoirs:

“... 56th tank corps turned abruptly eastward, on SebezhOpochka... Unfortunately, our apprehensions about swampy landscape came true. Sure, 8th tank division found a log-rode leading through swamps. However, it was jammed by vehicles of the Soviet moto-division, which remained there (emphasis added - M. S.). It took days to clear the road and restore destroyed bridges...” (Manstein, 1999).

Main forces of the 1st mechanized corps were concentrated in Porkhov area (70 km east of Pskov), i.e., in actuality the corps returned in the area of its pre-war deployment. After sending the 1st tank division in the Transpolar region and 163rd motorized division in Rezekne, “the main forces” of the corps shrunk to one (3rd) tank division and non-integrated corps motor-bike regiment. (At that, the flak-artillery battalion of the 3rd tank division as early as 28 June was taken away from the division and sent in Leningrad for performing a special task”) (TSAMO, fund 3422, list 1, case 7, sheet 2).

The further we go, the less. “4 July, based on personal order of head of the Northwestern front headquarters from the 3rd tank division was removed the moto rifle regiment with motor-bike company from the 5th motor-bike regiment, to which was assigned a special task...” (TSAMO, fund 3422, list 1, case 7, sheet 3). Thus, the mechanized corps (already shrunk to the size of one tank division) remained almost without own infantry. In such situation any possibility of conducting successful combat activities depended on the organization of close interaction with infantry of neighbour rifle groupings.

Theoretically there was infantry. On the line Pskov — Ostrov (on this line, beside natural river obstacle, were also concrete bunkers of Pskov and Ostrov fortified areas) from reserves Supreme Command was advancing 41st rifle corps (118th, 111th, 235th and 90th rifle divisions). By 4 July two divisions of the 41st rifle corps (118th and 111th) have already been in the stated unfolding areas. That day, 4 July 1941 Wehrmacht's 1st tank division, practically without fighting, took Ostrov. In adversary’s hands now were two (automobile and railway) unblown bridges over Velikaya River. Having Taken Ostrov and bridges over Velikaya, German tank groupings came to the “last lap” for the dart on Leningrad. At 0200 hours in the night of 5 July 1941 Northwestern front headquarters issued a very short combat order No. 14: 

“First. In engagement 4.7.1941 adversary took Ostrov .

Second. At dawn by joint actions of 111th rifle division and 3rd tank division with the support of aviation to destroy adversary in Ostrov area, invade Ostrov and 111th rifle division to take completely own area defence corridor” (Collection of combat documents …" No. 34).

Judging by the report from 1st mechanized corps commander Major General M.L.Chernavsky, engagement for the city of Ostrov was evolving as follows:

“... The attack began at 1525 hours. As a result of engagement with the adversary tanks and artillery, the 5th tank regiment (3rd tank division) by individual detachments coming on the left bank of Velikaya River took the city of Ostrov. However, having no artillery and aviation support (participated in engagement only 3rd howitzer artillery regiment - 24 guns , and aviation did not participate), in this engagement the division suffered from adversary antitank and artillery fire great losses in hardware and personnel. The infantry for securing taken city and cleaning it up of adversary was not available (there was up to one and a half battalion of 111th rifle division (41st rifle corps), the rest of infantry disorderly retreated).

... 5 July at 1555 hours (i.e., half hour after the beginning of the attack. - M.S.) the adversary with strong artillery and aviation support came on counterattack. 3rd tank division, not getting reinforcements (especially the infantry), doggedly restrained the attack until 1700 hours but under blow from dive-bombers, which used incendiary bombs and inflammable mixture, powerful artillery and mortars, suffering great losses, at 1900 hours began withdrawal by 5th tank regiment on the highway on Porkhov and by 6th tank regiment in northern direction...” (TSAMO, fund 3422, list 1, case 7, sheet 5).

By the end of the day remains of division’s the tank regiments withdrew in diverting directions 50—60 km from Ostrov .

The Northwestern front Command evaluated somewhat differently what happened at Ostrov. 6 July the following combat order was directed to the 1st mechanized corps commander:

“1. You did not take measures to set interactions with infantry and misinformed the Military Council that there was no infantry whereas it was in the area of activities, there were also headquarters of the 41st rifle corps and 111th rifle division.

2. Despite huge losses by the Germans at Ostrov, you did not try hard and without reason began withdrawing and with your reports about German breakthrough misled the front Military Council...

I emphasize your indecent behavior and order to stop the withdrawal and take part in the common counterstrike on Ostrov for a purpose of final crush of the Germans... Report compliance by 2200 hours 6.7.1941” (Collection of combat documents… No. 34).

There was already nobody to comply, and nothing to comply with. According to corps commander report, in the 3rd tank divisions remained: in 5th tank regiment — 1 tank -28 and 14 tanks BT-7; in 6th tank regiment 2 tanks KV, 26 tanks BT-7”. Total: 43 tanks.

Early in June 1941 in the 3rd tank division were 337 tanks (-28— 40, KV — 2, BT-7— 16). By 30 June, after the march from Porkhov to Leningrad, in the concentration area came 278 tanks (26 “-28”, 60 “-26”, 192 “BT-7”) (TSAMO, fund 3422, list 1, case 1, sheet 26). The division came to the disposal of the Northwestern front with 200 to 258 tanks (including 10 most up-to-date heavy KV received from Kirov factory in Leningrad) on the inventory (by different sources). By 15 July 1941 in the regiments of the 3rd tank division remained 4 tanks “-28”, 2 “KV” and 16 “BT-7”. Total 22 tanks or 7% of the initial number. Huge losses of the Soviet tanks in the engagement at Ostrov are also confirmed by adversary documents, according to which “1st tank division destroyed in Ostrov fore-bridge fortification over 140 tanks” (Petrov, 1993).

“6 July, under combat order from the Northwestern front Commander No. 020, the 3rd tank division was subordinated to the 22 rifle corps commander... 7 July, in a ciphergram No. 881/ dep. head of the Northwestern front headquarters passed the Commander’s order about subordination of 3rd tank division to 41st rifle corps commander... As a result of these re-subordinations, 22nd rifle corps commander left 5th tank regiment in his own subordination (it was deployed in his area) and did not return it in the division. 6th tank regiment was subordinated to 41st rifle corps commander. Therefore, since 7 July the 3rd tank division no longer existed as independent combat unit...” (TSAMO, fund 3422, list 1, case 7, sheet 5).

The head-on battle 5 July at Ostrov became in actuality the last large tank battle of 1941 on the Northwestern theater (Baltics — Leningrad). Nevertheless, in the course of what in the Soviet historiography is called “Leningrad strategic defensive operation” (10 July—30 September 1941), the Red Army lost 1,492 tanks (Secrecy label removed…, 1993, pg. 122, 165, 167-168, 201). Taking into account above stated losses in the Baltic defensive operation, total losses on the Northwestern strategic theater since 22 June through 30 September were 4,015 tanks.

Wehrmacht's 4th Tank Group operating on this theatre had by the beginning of combat activities in three tank divisions (1st, 6th and 8th) overall 563 tanks (plus 39 “commander’s tanks” armed only with machine guns). Three quarters of the entire tank park of the 4th Tank Group (412 out of 563) were light tanks with anti-bullet armour armed with low calibre (20 mm and 37 mm) cannon (Pz-II, Pz-35(t), Pz-38(t)). More than half of all tanks in Wehrmacht's 6th tank division (155 out of 232) were light Czech tanks “Pz-35(t)” outdated and run down exactly as disintegrating on move BT-5 of the 24th tank division (10th mechanized corps). Irretrievable losses of Wehrmacht's 4th Tank Group by 10 September 1941 were 121 tank, plus 71 more tanks were temporarily out of order. In two and a half months of engagements 4th Tank Group received for replenishment of the losses only 2 tanks. As a result, early in September 1941 number of combat-ready tanks in the group declined to 373 units (Jentz, "Panzer Truppen", . 206).

The last to be removed from the Karelian Isthmus and directed toward advancing German divisions was the 10th mechanized corps. 5 July 1941 in headquarters of 23rd army and 10th mechanized corps came orders about immediate redeployment of the corps’ tank groupings in the area of southern suburbs of Leningrad, i.e., to the place of pre-war 10th mechanized corps deployment. At night 5 July, first echelons with tanks left the stations Tali and Yaski. By 7 July 21st and 24th tank divisions concentrated in the area Pushkin—Gatchina. Their combat activities on the front of the 2nd Soviet-Finnish war with this ended. Perhaps, if the entire gasoline wasted for the redeployment of two tank divisions from Gatchina to Vyborg and back was simply poured on the adjacent Finnish territory, the effect would be greater. At least, the forest near Imatra station would have been certainly burnt to the ground...

Before “giving away” to the neighbor front two tank divisions of the 10th mechanized corps, the 23rd army Commander Lieutenant General Pshennikov ordered to create not envisioned by any army Statutes tank group, for manning and equipping of which was finally disbanded 10th mechanized corps. From 21st tank division was taken 54 tanks, from 24th tank division, 102 tanks (however, mostly outdated BT-2). Contrary to widely spread rumours that “under Stalin there was order in the country”, Lieutenant General took the liberty to break the Supreme Command Directive and “stash” half of 10th mechanized corps tanks. On a multi-day reverse march from the Finnish borders to the defensive line along Luga River (more than 250 km) some corps' remaining tanks went out of commission. Thus, it was decided 9 July in each division to merger remaining 100 in working order tanks into one consolidated tank regiment, and to distribute the remaining vehicles between rifle detachments. In two weeks the tank corps actually melted. As a fog at dawn.

And 198th motorized division did not return in the 10th mechanized corps. 4—6 July this division, together with others units (461 and 701st rifle regiments of the 142nd rifle division, 708th rifle regiment of 115th rifle division, 260 and 462nd rifler regiments of 168th rifle division) unsuccessfully attempted to throw off the 2nd Finnish infantry division beyond the international border in area Esko—Meriya. In these fighting engagements 198th mechanized division lost 9 tanks, 61 people killed, 266 wounded (TSAMO, fund 1458, list 1, case 5/7115, sheet 3). The 41st tank  regiment (of 21st tank division) attached for reinforcing the 19th rifle corps lost irretrievably 5 tanks, Five more tanks were evacuated from the field of engagement and restored. In the engagement, by the explosion of White-Finnish shell was killed head of the 41st tank regiment headquarters Major Gavrjlov. Killed: medium command personnel 1, junior c/p 5, foot soldiers — 2” (Ledger of the 21st tank division records of combat activities ", TSAMO, fund 3019, list 1, case 7-). Judging by records in the Ledger regarding the combat activities of the 23rd army, Finns retained taken by them 1—2 July area Esko, and by the end of 9 July took also Ristalakhti (TSAMO, fund 377, list 10877, case 42, sheet 8-12).

And then came the day of 10 July 1941.


Chapter 4.2 THE CRUSH


After Stalin’s leadership made huge, comprehensive, multi-plan, multi-month work (its culmination became massive aviation blow 25 June 1941) of pulling Finland into a new war against the USSR, it began taking away from the Northern front all reserve groupings and hastily redeploy them southwestward, toward advancing German troops. By the end of first weeks of June all front subordination groupings of the Northern front (1st and 10th mechanized corps, 70th, 191th and 177th rifle divisions) were redeployed to Ostrov, Pskov and Luga. From the 7th army was taken away 237th rifle division, which managed to arrive in Karelia no more than in 3—4 days.

There is no arguing that the situation on the southern approaches to Leningrad was catastrophic, and for saving Leningrad were needed extraordinary measures. 9 July 1941, practically without fighting, on the backs of running in panic 118th and 111th rifle divisions, the Germans captured Pskov. The defensive line on Velikaya River (Pskov and Ostrov fortified areas) was broken on the entire front. In mid-July 1941, engagements were already going on along Luga River, i.e., a hundred kilometers from Leningrad (see map No. 8). There was no long-term defence facilities on the southern approaches to Leningrad (under all pre-war plans the line of West Dvina River was considered the farthest possible line of retreat. Pskov and Ostrov fortified areas were built before the Baltics was included in the USSR), and dozens of thousands of city dwellers were digging foxholes on the last, Luga line. In the city were being hurriedly created divisions of “People’s militia” made mostly of students and teachers of Leningrad universities who never held weapon in their hands. Poorly armed and almost untrained units one after the other were thrown for holding the front along Luga River.

Of course, in such environment the Supreme Command could not but use Northern front troops as primary source of reserves for strengthening defence on the Luga line. However, ignoring problems is no method to solve them. Rather it is the other way around. Stalin with the Comrades created — not for themselves personally but for the entire country — a big problem on the Finnish border. 26 July 1941 this “problem” was formalized in form of a war declaration by Finland. Another war and one more front could not vanish by themselves simply because they were not paid attention to. For solving the conflict, straining to the level of war between the USSR and Finland were demanded actions — equally extraordinary as those undertaken for the defence of Leningrad. Strictly speaking, there were exactly three possible variants of actions:

— to begin (maybe with the help of new USSR allies, i.e., England and USA) peace negotiations with Finland;

— without saying so, to withdraw Northern front troops on the line of the Karelian fortified area and Svir River, i.e., de facto return to Finland (and to return with a large “addition”) the annexed territories, to shorten therewith the frontline and fortify the force defence capability by using natural (Svir) and artificial (Karelian fortified area) obstacles;

— find and transfer to the Northern front additional reserves allowing holding defence along the line of existing borders (1940 borders).

First two options, judging by the really occurring events, were not even considered. In actuality was implemented some semblance of the third option. In the summer and fall of 1941 the Supreme Command sent on the Finnish front seven rifle divisions (88th, 272nd, 313th, 314th, 114th, 265th and 291strifle divisions), three non-integrated tank brigades (46th , 106th and 107th), 3rd Leningrad militia division, 3rd brigade of marines and two NKVD motorized regiments (24th and 9th). Besides, in Murmansk was formed 186th rifle division and a brigade of marines, and in Petrozavodsk, 131st rifle regiment. In other words, in the end they had to send on the Finnish front substantially more forces than was taken away from the Northern front early in July 1941. But this happened exactly “in the end” and ended up in the withdrawal of Soviet forces (or rather those having lost most heavy armament disparate remains of the Northern front divisions) on the aforementioned line of the Karelian fortified area and Svir River.

History of the North (later — Karelian) front crush in July—September 1941 is in sufficient detail described in military-historic literature (On both sides of the Karelian front…,1995; Zimke, 2005; Alliluyev and Slesarsky, 2003; History of … Leningrad military district, 1968; Kishkurno, 2007; Senchik, www.pvnkvd.narod.ru; Savelyev, www.rkka.ru; Shirokorad, 2001; Oleynikov in From war to peace..., 2006). Chronologically, this issue is outside the framework of our study (i.e., history of emergence of the 2nd Soviet-Finnish war). So, in this chapter we will just briefly summarize the above sources.

By the beginning of the 2nd Soviet-Finnish war Finland’s armed forces substantially strengthened both quantitatively and qualitatively. The land forces now had 16 infantry divisions, two Ranger and one armored cavalry brigades. Total on the military service was 400, according to the data of other authors, 500 thous. people. Some even state the number 600 thous. people and add right away that this was the numerical strength of Napoleon army, which invaded Russia in 1812.

Strange, but such numbers did not cause any desire to think about how in a country with population under 4 million people could appear the army of such numerical strength. Of course, if to treat as “army” a crowd of duds armed with pitchforks, axes and cudgels, then even in Finland it would be possible to put together two “armies”, 600 thous. people each. However, if we are speaking about divisions armed, trained and provided with munition (this is the costliest component of the material provision of combat activities) albeit for several months of war, the origin of a simply statistical rule: “million of the population — one division” will become understandable. The Soviet Union was the state militarized to the hilt. That is why with the population of 200 million it entered the war with the army of 303 divisions. 17 “accounting divisions” with the population 3.7 million people is the same as 920 divisions in the Red Army. Such military burden would not be able to sustain even infinitely rich Soviet Union.

Army of the peace-time Finland had the numerical strength on the order of 36 thous. people. The “winter war” forced calling to arms literally every single one capable of holding the rifle in hands. By the end of 1940, already after demobilization of most military draft units, in armed forces still was 109 thous. people. In January 1941, a decision was made to increase the peace-time army to 75 thous. people. Out of those, 15 thous. served as professionals and 60 thous. were drafted for a regular term. Nevertheless, the stated numbers (16 divisions and three brigades) are true. The answer to this “wonder” has four components.

First, the Finnish divisions (even by the outward appearance of personnel, which is obvious on any photograph or military newsreel of those years) were rather divisions of the “People’s militia” from the Civil War period than cadre groupings of a professional army. Their staffing was done on the base of territorial paramilitary organizations (created in 1918 “Schutz Korps”). Almost half of rank and file personnel received only minimum military training. Second, only during very brief time could Finland support the burden of maintaining and equipping an army of 17 “accounting divisions”. It is possible to say that the Finnish army would have or either win in a “Blitzkrieg” or perish. Third, the armament (especially artillery) of Finnish divisions was noticeably inferior compared with the Soviet or German “standards”. Fourth, even this level of technical equipping became possible only due to large scale deliveries of the armament from Germany, which began in October 1940 .

Now we will translate these general ratiocinations into a language of specific numbers. Under the organization chart, as of April 1941 a Red Army rifle division had two artillery regiments. On its inventory was 12 howitzers (calibre 152 mm), 32 howitzers (calibre 122 mm) and 16 cannon (calibre 76.2 mm). To arm 17 such divisions was needed: 204 howitzers calibre 152 mm and 544 howitzers calibre 122 mm. Actually, substantially more guns was needed. After all, divisions are joined in corps, corps — in army. And corps army artillery regiments are also have to be armed with something. At the time of the “winter war” Finland almost did not have medium and large calibre artillery. Mostly, due to German deliveries, Finnish army by 1941 already had 178 artillery systems of caliber 150—155 mm and 278 artillery systems, calibre 105—122 mm. Substantially less than required for armament of the army according to the world standards but already substantially more than was only a year ago.

Another demonstrative example is the antitank artillery. In first weeks of the “winter war”, Finnish army appeared practically unarmed against huge “armored armadas” of the Red Army. In July 1941 the Northern front already did not have “armored armadas” and the Finnish army in 1940 —1941 received from Germany on the order of 200 German antitank 37-mm cannon -36 and more than 200 captured French 25-mm cannon “Marianna”. Besides, at Finnish factories was manufactured on the order of 350 licensed Swedish 37-mm cannon “Bofors”. By the beginning of the 2nd Soviet-Finnish war the army of Finland had on inventory already about 900 antitank cannon, which is on average more than 50 guns per division — quite decent parameter. For fighting new Soviet tanks (-34 and KB) all these low calibre cannon would be practically useless. However, as we know, the Northern front troops almost did not have tanks of new types whereas the armour of light BT and -26 tanks aforementioned guns punched with guarantee.

Now let us look on the Finnish army artillery through the eyes of those who fought against this army. 15 December 1941 was signed “Note of taking into account the experience of engagements in the Patriotic war on the front of 23rd army”. We read in this document: “... Saturation of the Finnish army by artillery, compared with the Red Army, is substantially lower... A characteristic feature is the absence of massive artillery application by adversary even in the areas of breakthrough of our defence. Artillery preparation before the offensive was usually short (10—30 min.) with insubstantial number of shells...” (TSAMO, fund 377, list 10877, case 42, sheet 99-100).

By the beginning of the 2nd Soviet-Finnish war groupings of the Finnish army were unfolded as follows.

In the north of Finland, in the corridor Kuusamo — Suomussalami, was deployed 3rd army corps (two infantry divisions, 6th and 3rd). This corps was transferred in operative subordination to the German command.

In the area Kukhmo unfolded 14th infantry division with the task to advance on Reboly— Lendery (see map No. 7).

In Ladoga Karelia, in the corridor from Kuolismaa to Lakhdenpokhya unfolded “Karelian army” command by head of the Finnish army General headquarters General Heinrichs. It included two Ranger and armored cavalry brigades merged in the group of general Oynonen (group “”), 6th army corps (5th and 11th infantry divisions) and 7th army corps (7th and 19th infantry divisions). In reserve of the “Karelian army” was one Finnish division (1st infantry division) and arrived in mid-July 1941 German 163rd infantry division (one regiment of which was redeployed in Transpolar region, on Kandalaksha theater). Total - six divisions and three brigades (see map No. 14).

On the border of the Karelian Isthmus unfolded 2nd army corps (2nd infantry division, 15th infantry division and 18th infantry division) and 4th army corps (12th infantry division, 4th infantry division and 8th infantry division).

In reserve was 10th infantry division (see map No. 13). Therefore, only in the area of 23rd army unfolded seven Finnish divisions.

The 17th infantry division was initially in the area north of Hango peninsula but then was withdrawn in reserve of Mannerheim and 17 July sent in Karelia.

After the redeployment of all Northern front reserve groupings south, in the Northwestern front defence corridor, on the Karelian Isthmus and in Ladoga Karelia remained only seven Red Army rifle divisions. They were very unevenly distributed. Five divisions of 23rd army (142nd, 115th, 198th mechanized division, 43rd and 123rd rifle divisions) fortified with four heavy artillery regiments RGK were on the Karelian Isthmus. Only two (71 and 168 rifle divisions) of the 7th army divisions were in Ladoga Karelia (see map 14). Such force distribution unambiguously testifies that the Soviet command did not have even slightest idea about adversary’s real operative plans. There was not even trace of any “Mannerheim's secret on Stalin’s desk”. Guesses about possible directions of the Finnish army main blows were based, alas, on myths and mantras of the Soviet propaganda. This propaganda for such a long time and so loudly yelled about the “White-Finnish militarists who extend their dirty paws to the city of Lenin” that in the end it persuaded in this its clients. Moscow clearly did not expect that the Finnish army would begin combat activities with the liberation of annexed territories in the Ladoga Karelia.


Combat activities of the 2nd Soviet-Finnish war clearly break up into three stages:

— offensive in Ladoga Karelia (July 1941);

— offensive of the Finnish army on the Karelian Isthmus (August 1941);

— offensive of the Finnish army to Svir River and Lake Onega (September — October 1941).

Offensive in the Ladoga Karelia began 10 July 1941. The operation plan was as follows. Main strike would be carried out by 6th army corps (two rifle divisions) on contact of 168th and 71st rifle divisions (7th army). Advancing along the eastern shore of Lake Yanisyarvi, the corps should have come to the shore of Lake Ladoga and then advance on Olonets and Svir. Mannerheim appointed as Commander of the 6th army corps a veteran of the Civil War (in Finnish historiography of the right slant it is called the “liberation war” or “war of independence”), commander of Finnish volunteers in 1919 and 1921 P. Talvela. In his memoirs Mannerheim writes: As far back as from the times of the liberation war I knew him as fearless and strong-willed leader who even have some fraction of insolence necessary for carrying out of counterstrike on adversary exceeding us in strength(Mannerheim, 2003). This time the adversary was substantially inferior to General Talvela in numbers: the strike by two divisions of the 6th corps was carried out in the defence area of two regiments (52nd and 367th rifle regiments) of the 71st “Karelo-Finnish” division.

Two infantry divisions of the 7th army corps must have advance on Sortavala, take this city and railway station, having cut therefore 7th army from communications with 23rd army. Ranger brigades of the group “” (those were groupings of lightly-armed infantry moving on bicycles; in conditions of forested cross-country they successfully performed the role of absent in the Finnish army tank brigade) must have broken through in deep rear of 7th army and on a huge 120-kilometer long arc come to the coast of Lake Ladoga, cutting communication line of the Soviet forces.

In the day of the beginning of offensive Mannerheim published becoming in the future renowned (it is possible to say, “sadly renowned”) order No. 3:

“During the liberation war of 1918 I told Karelians of Finland and White-Sea Karelia that I would not sheathe the sword until Finland and East Karelia become free. I swore this in the name of the Finnish peasant army, trusting thereby to courage of our men and sacrifice of our women.

Twenty three years White-Sea and Olonets Karelia waited for the fulfilment of this promise; a year and a half Finnish Karelia, desolated, depopulated after the valiant Winter war, waited for the morning dawn.

Warriors of the Liberation war, celebrated men of the Winter war, my brave soldiers! New day will come. Karelia will rise with her battalions in our marching columns. Liberty of Karelia and grandeur of Finland are shining before us in a mighty flow of world -historical events. May Providence defining the fates of people help the Finnish army to fulfil completely the promise, which gave the Karelian tribe.

Soldiers! This land, on which you will step, is dabbled with the blood of our compatriots and soaked with suffering, this is a holy lane. Your victory will liberate Karelia, your deeds will create for Finland a great happy future” (Baryshnikov, 2006, p. 35).

Mention of the White-Sea and Olonets Karelia is unequivocally saying that targets of the operation were far beyond (in all senses of this word) returning the territories annexed in March 1940. Reminding the soldiers about the “liberation war” and “peasant army” of 1918, Mannerheim therefore defined the started war as the continuation of not only the “winter war” of 1939 —1940 but also as a final stage of the Civil War flaring up in Karelia in 1919—1921. In 1945—1946 many leaders of Finland would have paid a high price for such order never to have existed...

In the first days of engagements, the offensive of Finnish forces was developing exceptionally successfully. 14 July was taken Loymola station, 16 July 1st Ranger brigade of Colonel Lagus in Pitkyaranta area came to the shore of Lake Ladoga. It meant that both supply lines of the 168th rifle division (railway spur Petrozavodsk — Suoyarvi — Sortavala and automobile road along the eastern shore of Lake Ladoga) were cut. The 71st rifle division in actuality stopped to be a unified whole. The left-flank of 367th rifle regiment was pushed in the defence corridor of the 168th rifle division, remains of the 52nd rifle regiment were thrown back to Suoyarvi, the right-flank 126th rifle regiment withdrew into uninhabited forested area near Kuolismaa where (as the Soviet historians write) it “successfully held defence” up to September 1941.

Already 13 July the 7th army headquarters rebased from Suoyarvi in Pryazha. Completely unique “rebasing” conducted the 71st rifle division headquarters. It was “evacuated (???) by Ladoga in Leningrad and then by 20 July redeployed by railway in Suoyarvi” (Oleynikov in “From war to peace... 2006”). In the meantime, Talvela corps continued the offensive along Lake Ladoga shore and 22 July came to the 1939 border at Vidlitsa settlement. 24 July 6th army corps came to Tuloxa (Tuulosyoki) River, which was for them last natural obstacle on the way of Finnish forces to Olonets and Svir River.

At the time when 6th army corps made more than 150 km in two weeks in continuous offensive, 7th army corps tried unsuccessfully to break through the defence of the 168th rifle division (Colonel Bondarev) right next to the border. Endurance and courage of the Soviet forces, concrete bunkers, mine fields and 42 km of Sortavala fortified area barbed wire obstacles turned out impenetrable for Finnish infantry. For the entire July 1941, with great losses (5.5 thous. people including 1.5 thous. killed), gnawing the defences of Bondarev’s divisions, the Finns advanced 10—15 km to a settlement Ruskeala on the railway line Loymola — Sortavala. The Finns were unable to either take or encircle Sortavala from the west. As any communications with thrown far east 7th army units and headquarters was lost, 21 July Sortavala force group (168th rifle division and 367th rifle regiment of the 71st division) was subordinated to 23rd army.

At the moment when Talvela corps came to Tuloxa River, before it in actuality there were no large Red Army forces. Talvela insisted on further development of the breakthrough. After it was denied he bitterly said (2 September 1941) to a German General Engelbrecht: “The corps' offensive pushed the Russians in panic. At that moment it would be nothing for the corps to come to Svir River and possibly to create a foothold on its opposite bank(Zimke, 2005). Mannerheim, however, saw the situation differently: “... Talvela demanded for the troops again to come on offensive from Tuulosyoki River. However, knowing his impulsive character, I considered it necessary to note to him that the time had not matured yet for this. An offensive must not begin until supply routs are in order and additional forces taken from other areas of front, concentrated. I did not want any lightning speed successes...” (Mannerheim, 2003).

Additional forces (1st Finnish infantry division, 163rd Wehrmacht's infantry division, somewhat later also 17th Finnish infantry division) were sent on the offensive along the railway line from Loymola on Suoyarvi and farther, on a detour of the north shore of Syamozero Lake on Petrozavodsk. In the meantime, the Soviet command, having recovered from the first shock, began feverishly to put together new units and groupings. In Petrozavodsk, on the base of 31st reserve regiment and with the involvement of party and komsomol active of the cities was formed 131st rifle regiment. For strengthening the regiment, it was amended with an armoured train, which turned out next to Petrozavodsk, and already 13 July scrambled grouping was sent on the railway in Suoyarvi.

Another reserve of the 7th army (along with party active) became NKVD troops. Substantial numbers were unfolded in the Soviet “Karelo-Finland”, which in the 1930’s became one of the largest “islands” of GULAG archipelago. Two motorized NKVD regiments (9 and 24th moto-rifle regiments) 16 July were transferred in operative subordination to the 7th army command. Then on the railway (through Leningrad  — Lodeynoye Pole) in Karelia from the 23rd army were redeployed 452nd regiment of the 198th motorized division and 7th motor-bike regiment (10th mechanized corps), 3rd brigade of marines, several non-integrated tank companies and artillery battalions.

21 July 1941 to the 7th army headquarters (located next to Pryazha settlement) arrived personally the Northwestern strategic theatre Supreme Commander, Politbureau CC VKP(b) member, one of five members of the State Committee for the Defence Marshall Voroshilov. (A strange coincidence: exactly the same day in headquarters of the army group “North” Commander, Fieldmarshall von Leeb, arrived Hitler). Several important decisions were made 21 July in headquarters of the 7th army. First, Voroshilov ordered for the army headquarters to be immediately returned in Suoyarvi. Second, two relatively large operative groups were formed: Petrozavodsk Operative Group (9th and 24th NKVD regiments, 10th reserve rifle regiment) and Southern Operative Group (3rd marine brigade, 452nd moto-rifle regiment and 7th motor-bike regiment). The same day 21 July 1941, at lost in dense forest station crossed the ways of the “first Marshall” and 1st tank division of the 1st mechanized corps.

Careful reader perhaps still remembers that 17 June this division received the order to load in railway echelons and to arrive at a transpolar station Alakurtti. 1 July 1941 in Salla area began offensive Wehrmacht's 36th corps (169th infantry division and motorized brigade SS “Nord”). In weeks of fierce fighting tankers of General Baranov, despite clearly “antitank” locality, successfully counterattacked the adversary and numerously put the SS brigade to panic flight. Early in the morning 4 July 36 army corps headquarters became witness to an amazing event: the entire SS division was blisteringly dashing on motorbikes toward Rovaniyemi chased by Russian tanks. For several hours corps headquarters, including head of headquarters, were stopping SS-men and sending them back on positions... Some rushed without stopping 80 km to Kemiyarvi where they forced the local Commandant to blow up the bridge over Kemi River in order to delay Russian tanks, which would be there in a little while...” (Zimke, 2005). Remarkably, the archive funds of 1st tank division do not include any mention of chasing the adversary in the territory of Finland. This, in our view, only confirms the fact that the encounter with Baranov’s tank division made so unforgettable impression on the SS-men that they rushed 80 km without looking back...

Much more significant is the other, and this time documentally confirmed, fact: the 1st tank’s fought not only successfully but also “shedding not too much blood”. Losses by the division in fighting engagements at the town of Salla were relatively small, and compared with usual for tragic summer of 1941 losses by hundreds of other Red Army divisions, simply miserly. Only from 30 June through 7 July the division lost 28 people killed, 30 — missing in action, 58 — wounded. Irretrievably lost were 33 tanks BT-7, 2— BA-10 and 1— BA-20 (TSAMO, fund 3000, list 1, case 1, sheet 42). In non-integrated automobile battalion of the division (236 automobiles and 2 motorbikes) there is not a single damage and forced stop”. Losses in personnel — 3 soldiers wounded (TSAMO, fund 3000, list 1, case 1, sheet 27). Howitzer artillery regiment of the division lost from 22 June through 1 August only 8 people (1 killed, 7 wounded). Tractors (pullers) of the regiment (36 units) made on average 279 km each, “regiment does not have losses in hardware and automobile transport” (TSAMO, fund 3000, list 1, case 1, sheet 12-13). Generally speaking, amazing history of the 1st tank division may serve an illustration of a paradoxical rule: “Bullet is afraid of a brave, bayonet does not touch him[2]”. In the 1st tank battalion (1st tank regiment of the 1st tank division) were fighting the crew of a legendary KV tank No. 864 commanded by Sr. Lieutenant Z. Kolobanov. 19 August 1941 in an engagement on highway Luga — Gatchina this crew fought with 40 German tanks. The “KV” received 156 direct hits by enemy shells but remained unhurt. Germans, as is customary to believe, lost 22 tanks. This number is, most likely, multiply overblown but the very fact of successful engagement by Kolobanov’s crew is in no doubt.

At 0600 hours in the morning 15 July 1941, after several categorical orders from the Supreme Command, units of the 1st tank division began loading in echelons at Alakurtti station. The division, as all other Northern front tank groupings, was being redeployed on Luga line of Leningrad defence. However, not the entire division. 14th army Commander Lieutenant General V.A.Frolov, contrary to all order of the Supreme Command, “stashed” the moto-rifle regiment of the division and 3rd battalion of the 1st tank regiment. 17 July, exactly a month after in a “peaceful summer day” 1st tanks div. was raised on combat alarm, echelons rolled from Alakurtti station. 21 July Voroshilov on his own authority stopped division’s echelons and ordered to unload 2nd tank regiment. Eventually, to Luga line arrived understaffed, tempered in engagements, excellently trained tank division, in actuality, two tank battalions of the 1st tank regiment with about 80 tanks on the inventory...

2nd tank regiment (it arrived in Petrozavodsk with V—4; -28—13; BT-7—29; BT-5—57; -26—32 on its armament; overall 135 tanks and 19 armoured vehicles B-10 and B-20) was immediately torn in two parts: two tank battalions were transferred in Petrozavodsk Operative Group and one battalion, in Southern Operative Group. It is difficult to understand the logic of such “operative art”. And it is not even a matter of already bad tradition of the first weeks and months of war to break down “steel cannon balls” into weak “pellets”. Unfortunately, Marshall Voroshilov was not the wiser to understand that a division of light tanks with anti-bullet armour and low calibre cannon is no magic wand but an instrument. The instrument suitable for doing quite definite job. The same very job, in a war of the previous century was done by a Cossack horse fighting formation: to drive and cut the fleeing. To capture headquarters and storages, burn wagon trains in the rear of the fear-paralyzed enemy. However, in a locality with such names as Syamozero, Mashozero, Vedlozero and Kroshnozero, amidst of a dense forest, swamps and lakes of Karelia, a tank regiment could only heroically perish. And that was exactly what happened in reality.

23—27 July 1941 in the forests at Vedlozero flared up a fierce and possibly the only one of such kind forest fight between tanks and the infantry. This time courageous tankers of Baranov division met no less steadfast and courageous adversary. Introduced in the engagement 1st Finnish infantry division (Colonel Paalu) had combat experience of the “winter war” (including the experience of fighting Soviet tanks). Besides, they had incomparably better than in the days of the “winter war”, armament . Light low calibre Finnish army cannon ere most appropriate for activities from forest ambushes (French 25-mm antitank “Marianna” weighed only 310 kg, 37-mm “Bofors” — 375 kg). Judging by the report by the Petrozavodsk Operative Group command, motorized “chekists” withdrew after the very first rounds. The Finnish infantry successfully shot tanks stuck in swamps. By the way, Finns apparently did not have enough arms, that is why they used bottles with gasoline and TNT sticks. In several days the offensive of Petrozavodsk Operative Group finally died out. Losses by the regiment were 67 BT tanks and 279 people personnel (Kishkurno, 2001).

The German 163rd infantry division appeared not well fit for engagements in foresty-swampy landscape and was unable to accomplish the task of independently catching Suoyarvi. Mannerheim had to redeploy Ranger brigades on the left flank of the “Karelian army” and send main forces of the 6th army corps for encompassing strike in flank and rear of the Soviet force grouping at Suoyarvi. After the Finns cut the railway at the southern shore of Syamlake, Soviet troops were forced to retreat from Suoyarvi eastward. After the completion of this operation, Mannerheim deemed it right and proper again to include the German division in his reserve and withdraw it from the combat zone.

28 July in Karelia arrived 3rd Leningrad People’s Militia Division, which was included in the Southern Operative Group. Early in August from reserve of the Supreme Command arrived 272nd rifle division included then in Petrozavodsk Operative Group. After the arrival of reinforcements began another stage of bloody attempts of counterattack on Finnish troops with the support of tanks, to throw them off from Tuloxa and Vedozero westward. However, in two weeks it was possible to move only 10 — 15 km forward. In mid-August the front in Ladoga Karelia stabilized on the line on average 30—50 km east of 1939 borders (see map No. 14). Losses by the “Karelian army” were quite heavy: in 20 days in July 1941it lost 6.7 thous. killed and 25 thous. wounded (Oleynikov in: “From war to peace… “, 2006).

All Finnish army Supreme command reserves were already operative in fighting engagements in Ladoga Karelia. So, the offensive was conducted only by those forces, which were next to the borders since the very beginning of the war. Three infantry divisions (2nd army corps), three infantry divisions (4th army corps) and non-integrated 10th infantry division (see maps No.No. 13 and 15). Contrary to multi-months expectations of the Northern front 23rd army command, Finns carried out the main blow not in the direction Lappeenranta —Vyborg but on the opposite flank of the 23rd army defence, at the north coast of Lake Ladoga.

On the eve of the Finnish offensive (the coincidence, apparently, was purely accidental) the 23rd army command attempted to organize a counterstrike along the shore of Lake Ladoga from Lakhdenpokhya northeastward for a purpose of throwing off Finnish troops from Sortavala. In the counterstrike were involved 198th division (w/o 452nd moto-rifle regiment redeployed earlier in Karelia) and redeployed from the army’s left flank 181st rifle regiment from the 43rd rifle division. From the morning of 29 July to the end of 31 July the strike groups advanced 3—4 km, and with this the offensive died off. Losses were immeasurably high. For instance, 198th mechanized division lost in these fighting engagements 168 people killed and 1,704 wounded (TSAMO, fund 1458, list 1, case 5/7115, sheet 5). Attracts attention totally improbable ratio of killed and wounded (1 to 10). Of course, the soldiers and commanders of 198th mechanized division could not be anatomically different from all other people (among whom the ratio of killed and wounded in all 20th century wars was approximately 1 to 3). And they were no different — in the period of 4 July through 10 August the loss of the 198th division was 216 killed, 851 wounded and 583 missing in action (TSAMO, fund 1458, list 1, case 61, sheet 19). Most likely, the above number 1,704 merges wounded and “missing in action”.

Be it as it may, an unsuccessful attempt on the counteroffensive only helped the Finns. It bled the only reserve of the 19th rifle corps (the 198th division) and “compacted” combat orders of the Soviet forces exactly in the front’s area, which the Finnish command intended to encircle. 31 July 1941, after a brief artillery preparation, 2nd infantry division began its offensive on Lakhdenpokhya and 15th infantry division, on Hiitola. In distinction from the situation in Ladoga Karelia where Finns began offensive 10 July having threefold numerical advantage, in the battle on the north coast of Lake Ladoga forces of the parties were approximately equal. First days of August there were fierce bloody engagements.

Although in time of these brutal engagements, — Mannerheim writes in his memoirs, — which I personally observed from a close distance, I was many times asked to supply fresh forces, I kept this reserve (10th infantry division) for myself and only 4 August passed it to the corps commander, having ordered to use it only on the direction I would indicate. Next day the fresh division commandd by Colonel Sikhvo passed into offensive pulling with it neighbouring units, and 7 August caught the village Kaukola. Deep breakthrough was successfully completed 8 August. Troops came on the shore of Lake Ladoga in the area Lakhdenpokhya. This meant that the communications of the adversary Sortavala grouping were completely cut. 11 August fell important railway and highway node Hiitola and the offensive wedge reached the shore of Lake Ladoga between Hiitola and Kexholm”.

Already 4 August, on the fifth day of the Finnish offensive, Lieutenant General Pshennikov was removed from the position of the 23rd army Commander and replaced by Major General .. Gerasimov who previously commanded 19th rifle corps.

5 July North front Commander ordered Gerasimov immediately to withdraw the entire Sortavala grouping southwestward, to Kexholm. However, 6 August Voroshilov on his own authority cancelled this order and ordered to hold Sortavala at any cost” (TSAMO, fund 249, list 33408, case 1, sheet 30; quoted from Baryshnikov, "Offensive of Finnish troops…", pg. 264-274, in “From war to peace…”, 2006, pg.35). For the liquidation of Finnish breakthrough at Hiitola in 23rd army was transferred 265th rifle division, which the Supreme Command earlier sent in Gatchina, i.e., on the “German front”.

The 265th rifle division was formed in Moscow VO. “Up to 40% of the personnel of the division earlier served or worked in the NKVD system” (Oleynikov, "Border fights …", pg. 240-262, in collection “From war to peace…”, 2006). 10 August the 23rd army command attempted to do a counterstrike by the 265th rifle division and 115th rifle division in the area southeast of Hiitola but to no avail, and 11 August the adversary finally cut the troops encircled next to the north shore of Lake Ladoga.

15 August the Soviet troops relinquished the city of Sortavala and withdrew in Ladoga skerries. A decision was made to evacuate the encircled contingent (remains of 168th rifle division, 142nd rifle division, 198th mechanized division, 367th rifle regiment of the 71st division, some forces of the 115th rifle division) by water, in vessels of the Ladoga Military Flotilla. By 23 August all evacuated units were brought on Valaam Island and in the future transported in Leningrad. Overall 26 thous. people and 155 guns was evacuated (approximately half of the organization chart numbers of the encircled units and groupings). The consolidated group made of border guard and desultory detachments of the retreating forces commanded by Colonel S.I. Donskoy held Kexholm and near-shore road up to 21 August 1941.

14—16 August 10th infantry division continued southward offensive. In a two day fight at Raysyalya village the 265th rifle division was finally crushed. There is such record in documents of the 43rd infantry regiment (10th division): “...The Russians defended valiantly but pertinacious Finns attacked them, and it was rapidly finished... From the stories of prisoners of war, the regiment’s commissar first said and ardent speech about Stalin and the Soviet Motherland, after which he took 6 machine gunners with him, two hand machine guns and fled... Totally differently behaved 946th rifle regiment commander Major Lashenko in his last hour he ordered soldiers to shoot him...” (Kishkurno, 2007).

Even before fighting at the northwestern coast of Lake Ladoga ended, passed in offensive 18th infantry division of Colonel Payari. (It was the same division, whose detachments at night 3 July repelled an attempt by the 10th mechanized corps to capture and “by fire tanks put on fire” Imatra station). Having thrown back from borders the 115th rifle division (whose surviving units withdrew on the west bank of Vuoksi Rriver in the defence corridor of 50th rifle corps), the Payari division rapidly advanced forward and 8—10 July crossed the railway in the area Antrea — Sayrala (see map No. 13). 18 August in the area of Oravankyuto village (east of Vuosalmi) forward units of the 18th infantry division were attacked by the 33rd border group and attached tank detachments. Three days continued fierce forest fighting. In the process, the Finns managed to encircle and completely crush border guards. The group commander and combat banner were captured by the Finns (Kishkurno, 2007).

At night 17 August the Payari division began crossing Vuoksi River. Division veteran Lieutenant S.Yantti writes: “During the day we advanced far. Our 14th heavy artillery battalion was crossing Vuoksi on rafts. My hair even now curl when I remember how we loaded the guns on rafts in iron blackness...” (Kishkurno, 2007). By midday 18 August on the western bank of the Vuoksi was already the entire 27th infantry regiment (18th infantry division), which captured a foothold 5 km deep.

Apparently, only this moment in the Northern front headquarters they understood a simple and flawless plan of the Finnish command. Clearly recognizing weakness of their artillery and almost total absence of bomber aviation and tanks, the Finns did not have any intention to “punch head-on” the line of the Vyborg fortified area concrete bunkers.

Instead, an operation was planned and successfully conducted of crossing Vuoksi River and coming in the deep rear of the entire Vyborg grouping of the Soviet forces. By 20 August on the west bank of Vuoksi, at the foothold captured by Payari division, were already units of the 2nd and 10th infantry divisions. North front Commander Lieutenant General S.. Popov appealed to the Supreme Command with a request for four fresh rifle divisions and one aviation division but the Supreme Command no longer had such reserves for the “Finnish front ”.

20 August, with the permission of the top command, units of the 50th rifle corps (43rd and 123rd rifle divisions), having idly waited for months on the border, began blowing up long-term fortifications and withdrawing south to Vyborg. 23 August by 43rd and 115th rifle divisions, hastily withdrawn southeast from Vyborg, was carried out a counterstrike with the task to liquidate the Finnish foothold on the west bank of Vuoksi River. A fierce fighting continued during two days passing sometimes in hand-to-hand scuffles. Both parties understood that this engagement would finally solve the fate of the 23rd army Vyborg grouping. 25 August, with the support of 12th infantry division blisteringly advancing from the borders along the western bank of Vuoksi, Finns crushed the Soviet troops and cut the railway line south of station Kyamyarya. Now only a thin “thread” of coastal road Vyborg — Koivisto connected troops of the 23rd army with Leningrad.

During the night on 25 August 1941 occurred the event, which may be considered one of most outstanding Finnish army achievements. Or one of most shameful failures of the Red Banner Baltic Fleet. At a distance of 50 miles from the fleet Kronstadt base, Finns began and successfully completed marine landing operation, unloading on the opposite shore of the Vyborg Bay an infantry division (8th infantry division). Unloaded, having in this area of the Baltic not even one large surface combat ship and mightily conceding in aviation. Having consolidated in the foothold in the landing area, 8th infantry division passed on the offensive and 26 August cut the Primorsk (sea-cost) road between Vyborg and Koivisto. After this, units of three Red Army divisions (43, 115, 123rd rifle divisions) received the last order — to destroy combat hardware and through a forest massif near Porlampi village withdraw on Leningrad .

It turned out impossible to retreat as the Finnish troops (12 and 18th infantry divisions) already organized a strong defence with the front northwestward. The units managed to breakthrough to the shore near Koivisto Bay. In the night on 2 September three large transports (“Meero”, “Otto Schmidt” and “Barta”) escorted by two trawlers and two cutters, exited Kronstadt to Koivisto. Transport “Meero” blew up on a mine and sank. Remaining transports, approaching at dawn the Koivisto breakwater, took up onboard about 6 thous. people and safely returned in Kronstadt. Evacuation of the personnel from the divisions crushed at Vyborg continued for several weeks. Overall, was evacuated (data from various sources) between 14 and 20 thous. people. The rest ended up in Finnish captivity. Captured was also the 43rd rifle division commander Major General V.V. Kirpichnikov (sentenced by the Military college of the USSR Supreme Court for “lost troop management and voluntary surrendering in captivity” and shot 28 July 1950, in June 1957 rehabilitated).

29 August Finns entered Vyborg barbarically destroyed by the retreating Soviet units. 31 August 12th infantry division took Teriyoki — a border resort settlement where 1 December 1939 ostensibly was founded “People’s government” of Mister Kuusinen. The same day 18th infantry division came to Mainila village worldwide badly renowned since 26 November 1939. Payari division soldiers did not refuse themselves a pleasure to make five ritual rounds from guns toward former border river Sestra.

The joy of victory (in one month the Finnish troops liberated the entire annexed territory of the Karelian Isthmus and took back three large cities: Vyborg, Kexholm and Sortavala) was overclouded by heavy losses. The Finnish army paid a high price for the crush of five cadre divisions of Leningrad military district. Total losses (killed and wounded) exceeded 25 thous. people. In some infantry regiments losses were 25— 30% of the organization chart numbers. For instance, 28th infantry regiment lost 279 people killed and missing in action, 856 wounded. 48th infantry regiment lost 358 people killed and missing in action, 923 wounded. Losses of the 7th infantry regiment were 480 killed and 1,622 wounded, i.e., more than half organization chart numbers (Irincheyev, "Refusals to cross…", www.kaur.ru). For comparison, in the first 40 days of war (22 June through 31 July) Wehrmacht’s losses (killed, wounded, missing in action) on the East front were only 6.5% of the grouping’s numerical strength (record in the “Diary” by F.Halder of 4 August 1941).

Despite these heavy losses “the adversary had clearly expressed offensive brunt”. Such conclusion was made by the compilers of aforementioned “Note of taking into account the experience of engagements in the Patriotic war on the front of 23rd army”. With respect to activities of own forces it says the following: “Our main measure of counteracting the adversary offensive was organization and throwing into the fight numerous groups and teams. These hastily created groups from different and dissimilar units were insufficiently battle-capable, some of them simply fled at first encounter with the adversary...

In the withdrawal, the units w/o experience, training and due organization could not hitch to the following line for constructing a strong defence. With inexperienced and unseasoned units, the begun withdrawal sometimes turned into a disorderly stampede. Units and detachments dispersed, management by the commanders was lost... Many our units and detachments left (often simply abandoned) the hardware (machine guns, mortars). Very often guns were abandoned to the adversary because the infantry, which was attached to the artillery, escaped.

Unfortunately, a number of units did not have the rule not to leave to the enemy our wounded and corpses of the killed...

Wherever our units showed persistence, initiative, insistence and certainty in their own strength, where commanders ruled surely and firmly, we had obvious success...”

1 September Leningrad front Military Council (23 August 1941 the North front was divided into Leningrad and Karelian fronts) made a decision to withdraw the 23rd army on the line of Karelian Fortified area. Hard to tell if these troops existed that day. However, a new (third in one month) Commander, General A.I. Cherepanov, appeared in 23rd army. By 3 September disparate remains of the retreating and evacuated by water divisions were put in order and took defence on the line of Karelian Fortified area. On the following day, 4 September 1941, Finnish units on Karelian Isthmus received an order to come to the defence (by the way, some scuffles lasted approximately to 10 September). After this the front stabilized on the line of the Karelian fortified area almost for three years, to 9 June of 1944.

Finnish army Offensive to River Svir and Lake Onega began 4 September 1941. In addition to the units, which fought in Karelia in July — August, the Finnish command redeployed on the railway Kexholm— Sortavala— Suoyarvi, which was now completely in their hands, 2nd infantry division. Later in Karelia were sent 4th and 8th divisions. On the other hand, the Red Army Supreme Command made in the end of August a decision to send in 7th army two more reserve divisions: 313th rifle division and 314th rifle division. These two rifle divisions indeed arrived in Karelia but already after the next defeat became fait accompli. 4 September 6th corps of general P.Talvela ( divisions) together with 1st Ranger brigade began offensive from Tuloxa River on Olonets. This day became “day of artillery” for the Finnish army — in artillery preparation participated 16 battalions (about two hundred guns). On the scale of the impoverished Finnish army that was huge concentration of the fire power (9 June 1944 offensive of the Red Army began with artillery strike with the participation of 3.5 thous. guns and fire density of 250—300 barrels per 1 km of the breakthrough front). On the second day of offensive the Finns took Olonets, 7 September came to the banks of Svir River. 8 September the Ranger brigade of Colonel Lagus captured strategically important railway bridge over Svir in the area of station Podporozhye (later Colonel Lagus became the first knight of the highest Finnish award, Mannerheim's cross). Future attempts of the Finns to expand the foothold on the southern bank of Svir were arrested by arrived at this moment to Lodeynoye Pole 314th rifle division.

Simultaneously with a dart to Svir the Finnish troops carried out a blow in the central front zone and 8 September took settlement Pryazha, having cut therefore the only in those places automobile road connecting Olonets with Petrozavodsk. In a huge forest massif between Pryazha and Olonets turned out encircled Soviet troops whose numerical strength Mannerheim estimates at two divisions. In his recollections he writes: “...In the following days the pincers around these divisions squeezed ever more... At the cost of huge effort, the main units managed, by separate groups, through the forests and swamps to get out from encirclement having left all hardware. Same as at crush of the “pocket” at Porlmpi on the Karelian Isthmus, Russian soldiers showed absolutely incredible capacity to suffer difficulties and stress. The reports about fighting engagements at Pyukhyayarvi to fucking demonstrably about the tortures they experienced wandering through the dense forest...”

Brilliant success achieved by the Finnish troops early in September turned out in actuality to be the last one.

Further offensive tempo was steadily declining. 40 km from Pryazha to Petrozavodsk took nine days to make. The Finnish army clearly “worked off its resource”. Besides, the “offensive spurt” after crossing borders was apparently exhausted. Soldiers did not understand what for and how far it was necessary for them to advance in the depth of northern Russia boundless expanses. The Finnish troops — we are repeating it once again — were rather a “people’s militia” than unreasoning mechanism of a professional army. Thus, cases of insubordination and refusal to continue the offensive were on the increase. The data of a Finnish researcher . indicate that on the Karelian Isthmus refusals to cross 1939 border occurred in half of infantry regiments (Irincheyev, "Refusals… ", see www.kaur.ru). There was even a single case (based only on eyewitness recollections, not on any documents) when an appeal to subordinates not to cross the border came from an officer in the rank of Captain. We will emphasize once again that all aforementioned cases occurred on the Karelian Isthmus. It would be imprudent to apply this statistic mechanically to the situation in the units fighting in Karelia. However, some general trend is quite clear.

Hopes of the Finnish command that by cutting the railway trunkline Lodeynoye Pole — Petrozavodsk they would be able to deprive the 7th army of communications with the “big land” were also in vain. Just several weeks before the beginning of the third stage of Finnish offensive was completed the construction of a 400-kilometer railway spur connecting the White-Sea with with the trunkline Vologda — Archangel. Therefore, the “northern transportation corridor” was created (White-Sea — Medvezhegorsk — Petrozavodsk), which enabled supplies to the Karelian front troops, albeit by a very long roundabout way. By the northern line, fresh 313th and 114th rifle divisions arrived in the 7th army. Fierce engagements for Petrozavodsk lasted two weeks and ended up in capturing the city 1 October 1941.

Stalin’s order about turning all abandoned territory in a zone of “burnt land”, which he phrased in the renowned radio appeal 3 July 1941was in full measure applied to Karelia. Moreover, there, due to relatively slow (compared with the offensive tempo of Wehrmacht's tank groupings) advance of the Finnish forces, this order was really complied with. In Petrozavodsk, up to 50% of residential properties was destroyed, in Kondopoga, 80%; power stations were blown up, wood-sawing factories destroyed. The population who did not have time or did not want to evacuate, was left without the slightest stores of food supplies. Only the arrival of the Finnish army saved dozens of thousands from the death by starvation. Which, of course, was not an obstacle and until this day is no obstacle for some authors to flood pages of books and newspapers with jeremiads about “miserly portions” and “inhumane racist policies” of the Finnish invadors...

Came October 1941, and began early, and very severe that year, winter. After taking Petrozavodsk, main efforts of the Finnish army were directed to capturing Medvezhegorsk and inter-lake pass between Segozero and the northern end of Lake Onega. Local engagements in the snow-covered, roadless and uninhabited area of northern Karelia lasted to 6 December, Medvezhegorsk several times passed from one party to the other. Finally, the Finns took the city and the southern segment of the White-Sea - Baltic canal. At that point, the Finnish army offensive was stopped everywhere. The same day, 6 December 1941, the Finnish parliament adopted a solemn decree of reunification of the liberated territories with Finland; territory outside the 1939 border received the status of military occupied zone. Finnish 3rd army corps was taken out of operative subordination to German “Norway” army headquarters and returned to the disposal of Mannerheim. Even before the end 1941 began mass demobilization of the Finnish army. By the spring 1942 overall 180 thous. people returned to peace labors.

As a result of combat activities in Karelia, which lasted altogether almost five months, the Finnish army moved the front line to the natural water obstacles Segozero — western shore of Lake Onega — Svir River — southern shore of Lake Ladoga. At the eastern segment of Svir River a foothold was created along southern bank of the river, approximately 15 km in depth and up to 100 km wide. It could be used as “forefield” of the main defensive line. Militarily, a huge success was reached as instead of previous winding borderline without a single serious natural obstacle, now only relatively short front line along Svir River should be defended (see map No. 15). However, eventually a negative political aftermath of invading the sovereign territory of the Soviet Union turned out much weightier. But in the late fall of 1941 Helsinki still did not think about this...

Losses of the Finnish army were quite significant. As Mannerheim testified (and as modern Finnish historians evaluate), losses in the 2nd Soviet-Finnish war exceeded losses suffered by Finland in the “winter war”. Irretrievable losses were on the order of 27 thous. people: 26 thous. killed and 1 thous. captured. About 80—90 thous. more people went out of commission as wounded or sick (all numbers should be treated as approximate, the scatter in various publications is 10—15%). Therefore, total loss was on the order of 110—115 thous. people, which is around 40% of the organization chart numbers of all combat units of the Finnish army. Without much exaggeration, it is possible to say that the Finnish army crawled to its decisive victory half-alive of tiredness and losses.

As for the Red Army losses, the only reliable number is the number of prisoners of war stated by the Finnish command: 64,188 people (Pietola, 1990). The Finnish army command, of course, could not know the exact number of killed and wounded Red Army soldiers. And the Soviet historiography did not know any “2nd Soviet-Finnish war”. The term “continuation war” was known but only as one of most heinous inventions by bourgeois falsifiers of history. Thus, there was no separate counting of losses on the Finnish front (because there was no “Finnish front” in the view of Soviet historians. There was “the participation of Finnish militarists in Hitler’s aggression against the USSR”). Besides, the Soviet historiography with great unwillingness mentioned the captured. That is why irretrievable losses (killed, captured, deserters) were always given as the sum, without the separation into its components.

A fundamental work of a group of Russian military historians (“Secrecy label removed. Losses of the USSR armed forces”) under the leadership of Colonel General Krivosheyev includes data about losses in the “Strategic defensive operation in Transpolar region and Karelia” (29 June — 10 October). As we can see, chronologic limits do not quite fit the real duration of combat activities (which in northern Karelia ended only in early December). On the other hand, the aggregate number of losses includes also losses by the 14th army, which fought with Germans in the Transpolar region. Losses in the “army’s defensive operation on the Karelian Isthmus” are included in the total losses by the Northern front forces during the period from 10 July through 23 August in the process of “Leningrad defensive operation” (Secrecy label removed…, pg. 122, 165, 167-168, 201).

Somewhat more informative is the data about losses of the fronts (Northern for the entire period of its existence and Karelian in 1941) (Secrecy label removed…, pg. 122, 165, 167-168, 201). Numbers of killed and missing in action are separated. As a result, ratio of wounded and killed fits within the standard 1 to 3. Chronologically included are all periods of the war except for the last, most tragic week of engagements on the Karelian Isthmus (encircled and crushed units of the Vyborg grouping since 23 August were counted already as troops of the Leningrad front). Let us assume quite tentatively (i.e., based on an assumption of proportional correlation of losses with the number of Northern front divisions, which fought on “German” and “Finnish” fronts) that losses of the 14th army in Transpolar region were 25% of total Northern front losses. We then may come up with the following approximate estimate of the Red Army losses in the 2nd Soviet-Finnish war:

— Karelian front (23 August through end 1941) — 14,720 killed, 19,317 missing in action, 43,758 wounded and sick;

— Northern front (29 June through 23 August 1941, without losses by the 14th army) — 17,750 killed, 47,343 missing in action, 47,178 wounded and sick.

Overall, 32 thous. killed, 67 thous. missing in action, 91 thous. wounded and sick, total losses —190 thous. people.

Most likely, these numbers are rather realistic. The fact that the number of missing in action (67 thous.) is greater than the number of captured (64 thous.) is not surprising as besides captured the category of “missing in action” includes killed and wounded left on the battlefield in retreat and also deserters. With all their inaccuracy, even these quite tentative numbers enable some quite specific conclusions.

First. Total losses (about 190 thous. people) are equal to the numerical strength of 13 rifle divisions fully manned under the wartime organization chart. In other words, the Northern front’s 23rd and 7th army and also their reinforcements in the process of war were practically completely put out of commission. Which means that the word “crush” in the title of this chapter is a uniquely accurate definition of what happened in summer—fall 1941 in the Karelian forests and among Karelian lakes.

Second. Combat losses (killed and wounded) of the Finnish and Soviet armies are quite comparable. Due to the tentativity of the Red Army loss estimates, there is no sense quoting exact numerical ratios but in any case, it is a matter of similar values. These combat activities on the Finnish front are radically different from the situation on the “German front”, where losses by the adversary were many times lower than the losses by the Red Army. The Finnish army did not know how (and could not, taking into account the training level of most personnel, weakness of the artillery and almost total absence of tanks and aviation) to fight “shedding not too much blood” with the Red Army armed at the level of best world standards.

Third. Even on the Finnish front (i.e., where the adversary did not have any technical advantage and could not cut defences of the Soviet forces by “tank wedges”) losses of captured Red Army personnel were twice the number of killed.

Fourth. No matter how heavy were losses of the Red Army in the process of the 2nd Soviet-Finnish war, they were substantially smaller than losses in a monstrous slaughter of the “winter war” (127 thous. killed and forever missing in action, 232 thous. wounded, frost-bitten and sick) (Secrecy label removed…, 1993, pg. 122, 165, 167-168, 201).

At the end of a brief review of the events in the 2nd Soviet-Finnish war, it must be mentioned also the fate of the Soviet military base, created on the “leased” from Finland Hango Peninsula.

The real task of the naval base at Hango was forward creation of a foothold for landing Red Army forces 100 km from Helsinki. After the pre-war plans of invading Finland had to be forgotten (which happened already one week after the war began), further existence of a Soviet at Hango lost any operative sense. The declared task of the base (“to block by artillery fire the entrance in the Gulf of Finland”) remained unaccomplished. Not a single shot on German fleet vessels was made by the naval base at Hango. For a very simple reason: the Germans had no intention to introduce their fleet in the Gulf of Finland. And if they wanted to do it, they would have safely come by the southern navigation channel, outside of the artillery defeat zone. Two Finnish iron-clads, all the same elusive “Ilmarinen” and “Vyaynemyaynen”, undertook several night artillery shootings of the Hango naval base (2, 4 and 12 July, 2 September and 15 November). Coastal batteries of the base, having no devices for support of aimed night shooting, could not render even minimum counteraction (Baltic Fleet torpedo cutters by that time have already left Hango) (Platonov, 2005).

The cadre personnel at Hango (about 28 thous. people) and huge amount of first-rate armament should have been already early in July 1941 immediately evacuated. Somewhat jumping ahead, we will note that in the end from Hango in Leningrad was transported 22.8 thous. combatants, 26 tanks -26, 72 guns of various calibre, 590 machine guns, 22.5 million rifle cartridges and 111 radiostations. Overall, Hango garrison in its real combat potential exceeded all Leningrad divisions of “People’s militia” combined. In July 1941, successful evacuation was still possible as the Red Banner Baltic Fleet was not expelled from its main base in Tallinn and hence could provide cover for the evacuation at sea and in the air.

By the end of August 1941, Germans took the entire south coast of the Gulf of Finland. 28 August began ill-fated “Tallinn passage”, after which the survived vessels came in Kronstadt, which for the following three years became the main base of the Baltic Fleet. After the fleet departure from Tallinn and after the loss of all airdromes in Estonia and the doomed naval base at Hango turned out in deep “marine rear” of adversary, which unconditionally dominated at sea and in the air. However, the decision about evacuation at Hango was not made either before the “Tallinn passage” nor after it. Moreover, the Supreme Command at least three times (13, 14 and 21 August) denied corresponding proposals from the Baltic Fleet command. Perhaps, Hango Peninsula was dear to Stalin as memory. The memory of those unforgettable days in 1939 when he, like khans of the Golden Horde, summoned, cap in hand, rulers of the neighbouring countries and dictated them their conditions and drew on map borders of once sovereign countries...

September 1941 began, and began the period of fiercest fighting on the southern approaches to Leningrad. The fate of the city hung by a thread. A large operation was in preparation already of the destruction of hundreds of industrial and culture objects in the USSR “second capital”. The Hango garrison (not of their will, of course) continued senseless “sitting”, which the Soviet historiography later called “heroic epopee of Hango defence”.

Newspaper “Pravda” published pathetic “letters from Hango defenders”, for instance, of such content: On severe rocky peninsula, in the mouth of the Gulf of Finland stays invincible Baltic fortress — The Red Gangut. It is now the fifth month as we are defending it from Fascist hordes, not retreating by even one step...” Former Red Banner Baltic Fleet Commander (and later Doctor of historical sciences) admiral Tributs notes with pride in his memoirs that “despite heavy conditions of defence, the party organization was continuously growing. 4,000 Hango defenders joined the ranks of the Communist party. More than 1,000 people joined Komsomol. Some detachments were fully Communists and Komsomolets...”.

Who was “heroically defending” against who is difficult to tell. Early in July 1941 Finns, really, undertook several attempts to break through on the peninsula. However, they found out from their bitter experience the strength and impregnability of the defence created on the isthmus. After that, they completely stopped any attempts of a storm reasonably believing that sooner or later the Soviet command will be forced to evacuate the base. For “lookout” after 25-thousand-strong garrison of Hango naval base were left detachments of coastal defence and one (!) Swedish volunteer battalion commanded by Lieutenant Colonel H.Berggren. After this combat activities at Hango boiled down to systematic exchange by mutual artillery strikes and sabotage outings on numerous surrounding Hango minuscule islands.

At last came November. Thick ice crust began covering the near-shore band of the Gulf of Finland. It was no longer possible to procrastinate with evacuation of Hango as the Finns could take “frozen in ice” base by land forces from directions where no defence positions were constructed. 7 November the Supreme Command permitted the evacuation. Before leaving, the “tenants” received an order to destroy to the maximum the property of the “owners”. “...We were sent in the city to break and destroy anything at hand: windows, doors, even furniture in rooms. We could not burn anything, otherwise the Finns would guess that the evacuation began. Whatever we could not take with us, we had to damage or destroy. Bags with grains peas, rice, millet, buckwheat — were dumped in one heap and poured over by kerosene, after this they did not need to be burnt... Many things on peninsula were booby-trapped. Roads and houses were mined. In the bakery the last batch was left on boards placed on mine contacts...” (Tirkeltraub, "My second war".).

Actually, partial evacuation began as early as 27 October and continued 3 and 5 November, i.e., even before the order of Hango naval base total evacuation. First convoys quite successfully went over the Gulf of Finland literally barded with German, Finnish and Soviet mines. There were almost no losses in vessels and people or minimum losses. 22, 23, 25, 28 November went next convoys. Losses grew, sunk vessels (including destroyer “Smetlivy”) took 728 people to the bottom. Late at night 2 December, the last, largest ship convoy left Hango: turbo-electric “Iosif Stalin” with about 5,600 people onboard, two destroyers and six trawlers. Total more than 8.6 thous. people. Later military marine specialists indicated many errors in navigating the convoy through the “palisade” of mine barriers. Be it as it may, at 0100 hours, in total darkness the vessels entered the zone of dense mining, assumedly German.

In four minutes, mine explosions tore away six paravans (trawling devices) from three trawlers. Strong wind was driving a huge transport with tall passenger decks away from the trawled corridor.

At 0118 hours shaking from a close mine explosion damaged the rudder on the transport, the ship began moving in circles and at 0122 hours was blown up by the first mine, which destroyed the rudder and the propeller. At 0126 hours, the next explosion destroyed ship’s forebody. Ungoverned, the vessel was slowly driven by wind toward one of the Soviet mine barriers. Attempts to trawl the transport were unsuccessful. At 0331 hours occurred a very strong explosion (assumedly, detonation of artillery munition due to hitting the Soviet mine). The trawlers tried persistently to save the evacuees but high seas did not let to moor to the sinking ship. People were jumping from the board of “Stalin” in the ice-cold water of the December Baltic and trying to swim to lifeboats and rafts...

According to a report by the Red Banner Baltic Fleet command, by dawn 3 December it was possible to remove 1,740 people from the transport. The group Commander vice-admiral V.P.Drozd on the destroyer “Stoyky” at 0200 hours left the catastrophe area and went east to Gogland (Suursaari) island, where he safely arrived at 1400 hours 3 December. The other convoy vessels with the survivors arrived on Gogland 3 December at night. In the meantime maimed by explosions “Iosif Stalin” (Dutch-built in 1940) still stayed afloat and slowly drifted toward the Estonian shore. In the morning 4 December, ship got upon the bank nearshore 20 km west of Tallinn. At this moment, the Red Banner Baltic Fleet Commander apparently remembered an order of the real Iosif Stalin. (It was Directive of the Supreme Command No. 270 of 16 August 1941 “On the cases of cowardice and surrendering in captivity and the measures of stopping such activities”. It demanded: If some Red Army soldiers, instead of organizing rebuff to the enemy, prefer to surrender in captivity destroy them by all means, onland and in the air”. Admiral Tributs ordered to finish off “Iosif Stalin” by the bomber aviation and torpedo cutters (Platonov, 2005). To finish off together with “detachments, which were completely manned by Communists and Komsomolets”. This order (as, by the way, many other orders) was not complied with. Formally, it was due to bad weather and strong icing of the torpedo cutters. One would hope that it was not the only reason.

By noon 4 December 1941, German and Finnish vessels approached “Stalin” and took from it about 4 thous. people who thus became prisoners of war. Altogether, in the process of the evacuation of naval base Hango irretrievable losses (perished and taken in captivity) were 4,987 people. Was damaged and put for repairs leader “Leningrad”, blew up on mines and sank three destroyers (“Smetlivy”, “Surovy” and “Gordy”), guard ship “Virsaitis”, four trawlers, hospital vessel “Andrey Zhdanov”, transport “Iosif Stalin” and more than 10 vessels of a small class (torpedo cutters, marine hunters). These losses, comparable with losses in a large sea battle, were the only practical result of creation in spring 1940 of the Soviet naval base at Hango Peninsula.




Whereas in combat actions of summer—fall 1941 the Finnish army brilliantly prevailed, the situation on the “political front” deteriorated every day. It is impossible “to sit on two chairs” for a long time. Even more so that the “chairs” had quite clear own interests.

Hitler was absolutely not interested in promises, which Mannerheim gave somebody in 1918 , swords in sheathes”, “morning dawn over White-Sea and Olonets Karelia” and any other prettyisms. Expected from the Finnish army (and later demanded) was the participation in storming Leningrad and offensive from Svir River on Tikhvin and Volkhov for the creation of “a big ring of encirclement” around Red Army’s Leningrad and Volkhov fronts.

To both proposals, Ryti and Mannerheim gave the Germans a polite written refusal. 4 September 1941 to Mannerheim's Supreme Command in Mikkeli arrived as “main persuader” personally head of headquarters of Wehrmacht's operative leadership . Jodl. He presented Mannerheim with Germany highest military award — Knight’s Cross (in the Soviet historiography called “Iron Cross”). Mannerheim accepted the award with gratitude but categorically refused to participate in the offensive beyond Svir and joint with Germans storm of Leningrad. In November, the 3rd army corps Commander General Siilasvuo began openly sabotaging orders from headquarters of the German army “Norway” (in whose operative subordinated the Finnish corps was) of the offensive to Murmansk railway in the corridor Kestenga—Loukhi (see map No.7).

All this could not but cause growing vexation in Berlin where they were used to a completely different style of interaction with their satellites. This style is currently well known. First, with help and support of the German special services was created extremist nationalist organization of the Fascist slant (“Ustashe” in Croatia, “Salashis” in Hungary, “Iron Guard” in Rumania, “Glinkovs” in Slovakia). Then to this organization was directly handed dictatorial powers or it was kept as armed powerful “opposition”; in charge of the doomed country mas placed a Hitler’s puppet; armed forces were taken under full and unhidden control of German officers. And only after the completion of all “preparatory measures” units and groupings of the country-satellite joined — again, under direct command of Hitler’s Generals — the next conquering raid of Germany.

Nothing like this was happening in a case with Finland. Very right-wing, pro-Fascist “lapua movement” was banned and crushed early in 1930’s, its leaders were jailed. Any rebirth of similar organizations in Finland was out of the question. The country maintained democratic constitutional style not allowing even slightest interference by Germany, Hitler’s party and SS in its internal affairs. Besides, German was warned about this in advance. As early as 3 June 1941, in the process of a conference with German military representatives, head of the Finnish General headquarters Heinrichs stated that “any attempt to install in Finland a “quisling-type” government will immediately put an end to the German-Finnish cooperation” (Zimke, 2005). By-the-way, about Quisling (head of puppet “government” in the occupied Norway, executed 23 October 1945 for the cooperation with Fascists under a court sentence.) Finland continued to maintain diplomatic relations with legal government of Norway in exile and in Helsinki was the Norway Ambassador. To evaluate the situation according to merit it should be recalled that in May 1941 the Soviet Union, demonstrating its loyalty to Berlin, broke diplomatic relations and ordered Norway embassy home from Moscow.

On the other hand, Germans could not but recognize the fact that the Finnish army quite successfully fought against the Red Army whereas Rumanian and Slovakian units were only good for robberies and punishing raids in partisan areas, and Italian divisions (named, instead of “normal” numbers, after ancient heroes) turned out good for nothing at all. As a result Germany continued to show respect and help Mannerheim personally and Finland in general. For instance, already at the end October 1941 Finland’s economy was in so acute a crisis that Finns were forced to request from Germany 175 thous. tons of grain, without which the population simply would not survive to the following harvest, 150 locomotives and at least 4 thous. railway cars for almost collapsed transportation system. 21 November Keitel promised to speed up grain deliveries, deliver by sea 55 locomotives and 900 cars. He reminded at that that due to the absence of “land contact” (i.e., refusal by Mannerheim to advance from Svir River on Tikhvin) larger-scale deliveries were technically impossible (Zimke, 2005).

The relations of Finland with her former western allies also deteriorated every day. The pressure in this case was applied from two sides at once. Germans (not without reason) were outraged by the fact that in the capital of the state, to which they provided and continued to provide valuable help, were embassies of the main German adversaries. 9 July 1941 Ribbentrop demanded to sever diplomatic relations between Finland and Great Britain (USA at that time officially was not at war with Germany, so Ribbentrop had no formal grounds to demand the break of diplomatic relations with America). 22 July Finns responded to this demand with a nebulous promise to conduct corresponding negotiations and if needed to sever diplomatic relations with Great Britain”. The situation became strained by itself after 30 July an attack by the aircraft from at English carrier “Furious” carried out a blow on German vessels in a Norwegian port Kirkenes and in Finnish Petsamo. Albeit the targets were German military objects in Finland’s extreme north, in actuality controlled by the German troops, this episode allowed the Finnish government to comply with the demand by Berlin without “losing face” and straining without need the relation with England. Finland’s embassy was recalled from London, English responded with the same but this process did not go any further.

On the other hand, Comrade Stalin, who at a lightning speed got accustomed to his new (and to be straight, completely surprising for him) role of a “participant in the anti-Hitler’s coalition of democratic countries”, began ever more insistently — not to request but demand from Churchill and Roosevelt ever new and new concessions, gifts, etc.

Already 18 July Stalin in a letter to Churchill proposed to create a new front against Hitler in the northrn Europe. What it meant was active actions by the English air and sea forces, and also landing in the northern Norway of one English division or “Norwegian volunteers for insurgent activities against Germany”. It is not impossible that the aviation raid on Kirkenes and Petsamo, the pretext for severing diplomatic relations between Finland and England, was organized in response to this demand by Stalin.

As for the continuous demands by Stalin to declare war on Finland, London and Washington could relatively quietly ignore it only to the moment when the Finnish troops crossed the 1939 border.

Neither England nor USA ever recognized as legal Stalin’s conquests in Europe in 1939 —1940. The aggression against Finland was officially condemned by the League of Nations. President Roosevelt, as we know, expanded in December 1939 the demand of “moral embargo” (prohibition of deliveries of the aircraft and aviation engine hardware) on the USSR. So, the allies had no intention to demand from Finland observance of the conditions of predatory Moscow peace treaty of 12 March 1940. Not the last role played also the fact that English and American diplomats saw through their own eyes a Soviet bombing 25—26 June 1941 and its aftermath. The situation began changing after in September 1941 Finnish army advanced dozens, then hundreds of kilometers in the depth of the sovereign territory of the USSR.

22 September 1941 Finland received official note from the British government. It included a demand to withdraw Finnish forces on the line of 1939 borders. It also contained a warning that in a case of any further advance in the depth of Russia “British government will be forced to recognize Finland as an adversary both in the process of war and at concluding peace”. 29 September through 1 October 1941 in Moscow were held negotiations, at which an agreement was reached about Anglo-American deliveries of armament, military materials and food supplies in the Soviet Union. One of the shortest “transport corridors” ran in the waters of the North Atlantic and Barents Sea (ports of Murmansk and Archangel). From this moment on America could no longer look indifferently at the course of the 2nd Soviet-Finnish war. 27 October 1941 the US government sent to president Ryti official note. It demanded withdrawal of forces to the 1939 border and stated that if the vessels transporting military cargo, sent by the United States in the north of the Soviet Union, are openly or clandestinely attacked from the territory under control of Finland, such incident will cause immediate crisis in the relationships between Finland and USA” (Zimke, 2005).

At last, 28 November 1941 the Finnish government received an English ultimatum. It specified the day — 5 December 1941, after which Finland must have discontinued military operations and restrained from participation in any hostile (toward the USSR and Great Britain) actions”. In a case of noncompliance with this ultimatum Finland would have turned in a state of war with England. The next day, 29 November 1941, the US Ambassador in Finland handed to Mannerheim a personal message from W. Churchill. “...I am very saddened by hat, in my view, is expecting us in the future, namely, the fact that we, for the reason of loyalty (emphasis added - M. S.) will be forced in several days to declare war on Finland... I hope I am capable of convincing Your Excellency that we will win over the Nazis. For many English friends of Your country would be sad if Finland turned out on the same bench with the accused and vanquished Nazis. Recalling our pleasant conversations and exchange of letters related to the last war, I am feeling the need to send You purely personal and confidential information for thoughts while it is not yet too late(RGVA, fund 4, list 19, case 71, sheet 75).

An explanation in Mannerheim’s memoirs of the reason why Finland rejected the demand of English government does not look too convincing. In the government session was ostensibly made a decision to agree with London's demands, even more so that there was nothing there about troop withdrawal to the 1939 border. Unwillingness to convey his consent (prior to the completion of the engagements at Medvezhegorsk) was ostensibly associated with the danger that the English may hand this information to Moscow. Be it as it may, 6 December 1941, at the next anniversary of Finland’s independence and at the day of ending combat activities on the Soviet-Finnish front, England declared war on her. The United States, much less tied up in her decision by the “reasons of loyalty” to Stalin, was quite satisfied with actual stop of the combat activities and absence of any attempts by the Finnish army to cut the Murmansk — White-Sea railway. So, there was neither declaration of war nor severing diplomatic relations with Finland.

The year 1942 began with the Red Army counteroffensive at the walls of Moscow and ended with the encirclement of German, Rumanian and Itallian forces at Stalingrad. In January 1943 the Red Army could, at last, punch through the German defence in Shlisselburg area, and between besieged Leningrad and the “big land” appeared narrow, 10-kilometer wide, shot by artillery but still really operating “transportation corridor”. That meant that the most terrible chapter in the history of Leningrad siege ended. 2 February 1943 a grandiose battle at Stalingrad ended up in a total crush and capturing the remainder of the adversary’s army. Next day, 3 February 1943, at main headquarters of the Finnish army in Mikkeli took place a conference of Finland’s top military-political leadership. Participants had to come to completely disappointing conclusion: Germany will unavoidably lose this war and Finland would have to pay out for the fact that she erred in the choice of an ally. Practical proposals were that it was necessary to look for such way of fast Finland’s exiting the war, at which it would be possible to maintain her sovereignty and state independence.

The task, which was very difficult — and turned out practically not solved at the end of 1941 — in the new situation appeared practically unfeasible. The Finnish society and Finnish parliament were not yet ready to recognize that all sacrifices of the two wars were in vain and to agree with a withdrawal to 1940 border. Stalin, inebriated by outstanding successes of the Red Army, did no longer agree with simply restoration of the pre-war “status-quo”. Covert contacts between the Soviet and Finnish representatives in 1942—1943 in capitals of neutral states showed that there was no grounds for a compromise agreement. Moreover, the Germans found out about these contacts, as should have been expected. The result was demonstrative recall of the German Ambassador from Helsinki and provisional stoppage of food supplies early in June 1943.

The ray of hope glimmered in Lisbon where in summer 1943 through the US embassy in Portugal were going secret negotiations where a possibility of the landing American forces in the northrn Scandinavia was discussed.

A result was that the foreign minister of Finland, on consent of Mannerheim, sent a letter to the US Department of State with the assurance that the Finnish army would not be hindering the appearance of American forces in the territory of Finland. The appearance of a real “third force” capable of providing peaceful exit for Finland from war could completely change hopeless for Finns situation. However, plans of allied landing in Scandinavia remained on paper.

29 November through 2 December in Tehran took place a first meeting of the leaders of three allied powers: Stalin, Churchill and Roosevelt. To the information of western allies that Finland is ready to vacate the East Karelia and Olonets (i.e., retreat to 1939 border) Stalin responded briefly: “Finland does not want serious negotiations with the Soviet Union”. For Stalin, the internationally recognized border of 1939 already stopped being a subject of discussion deserving mention. In the end Stalin verbally promised to show magnanimity and find (on the basis of returning to 1940 borders) such decision, under which Finland’s independence would be preserved. At the level of obligatory decisions of the Tehran conference, it was decided — and through the USSR Ambassador in Sweden conveyed to the Finnish leadership — not to expand on Finland the demand of “total and unconditional capitulation”. This demand future winners agreed to consider the only possible form of completing the war with Germany and her allies.

It is not impossible that Roosevelt also gave Stalin certain promises on the “Finnish question”. 30 January 1944 the government of Finland received official USA note, which stated that the longer Finland delays the conclusion of a peace treaty with the USSR, the more unfavourable for her conditions of this agreement would be. In these very days on airdromes of Leningrad and Novgorod provinces recently liberated from German invaders, were coming to an end last preparations to the largest in the entire war (not Soviet-Finnish but the Second World War) air operation of the Soviet air force.

The preparation to this operation began as early as in December 1943, immediately after the conclusion of the Tehran conference. Quite obvious task — to apply pressure on Finnish leadership, to demonstrate it the immeasurably increased military might of the Soviet Union, possibly, was not the only one. Stalin’s ambition demanded to demonstrate to the West that the Soviet strategic aviation is also capable of carrying out crushing blows turning entire cities into ashes. Finland’s capital, with its weak and outdated antiaircraft system, represented an ideal object for such demonstration. In the participation in multi-day operation was involved practically the entire long range aviation of the Soviet Union. To long gone past belonged now the instruction to “bomb in small groups of individual elements”. At equal intervals of 10 days, it was planned to carry out three most powerful blows, in which would have participated simultaneously all battle-capable aircraft. And these aircraft were no longer light “high speed” SB with bomb load of six FAB-100 but long-range DB-3f, American “Mitchels” -25, Soviet-produced American “Douglas” (Li-2) and heavy four-engine “flying fortresses” Pe-8 capable of carrying FAB-2000 or even FAB-5000.

The first raid occurred in the night 6 on 7 February. Out of 785 bombers that took off reached the target 728 aircraft, which dropped on Helsinki 6,991 bombs, total weight 924 ton. Just short of one kiloton. Among the others on the capital of Finland were dropped two FAB-5000 (one such bomb could erase the whole block), six FAB-2000 and four FAB-1000. Prepared the next day report of Karelian front air force headquarters said: “Air intelligence by fighter planes conducted at 1405 hours established that the entire city remains in smoke...” (Zefirov, 2003).

In the second raid in the night 16 on 17 February participated “only” 408 (the other data — 497) aircraft, which dropped on the city 4,317 bombs. The mightiest was the third raid (in the night 26 on 27 February), in in which participated 929 bombers, out of which 863 reached the destination. Dropped were 5,182 bombs (total weight 1,010 ton). Characteristic feature of this raid was massive use of heavy and superheavy bombs: 20 FAB-2000, 621 FAB-500, 1,431 FAB-250. Overall, on Helsinki was dropped 16,490 high explosive and incendiary bombs of the aggregate weight 2,575 ton. Again, this was the largest operation of the Soviet long-range aviation in the entire war. And not simply “the largest” but simply incomparable with the renowned, described in hundreds of publications raids on Berlin in the end summer of 1941. That time, the Baltic Fleet air force in period 8 August through 5 September dropped on Berlin 311 bombs (total weight 36 ton).

February bombing of Helsinki had multiple, mostly unexpected aftermath.

When in September 1944 (already after signing the armistice agreement) representatives of the Soviet military command could arrive in Helsinki, instead of a heap of charred ruins they, to their extreme surprise, discovered a city full of life. Emotional impressions are quite confirmed by currently known figures and facts. According to a report by the Finland anti-aircraft defence Commander submitted 7 February to Mannerheim Supreme Command, the first raid destroyed and damaged within the city limits 64 stone houses, in suburbs were destroyed or burnt 29 stone and 330 wooden buildings. Perished 83 people, 322 were wounded. In Helsinki port were destroyed two cargo ships and one guard cutter (Zefirov, 2003). Victims and destruction, as we see, substantial but in no way in line with the expected result from dropping 7 thous. bombs, total weight almost a kiloton.

According to a Finnish aviation historian K.F. Geust, in the “residential areas of the city” dropped only 799 bombs. This is only 4.8% of the total number of bombs dropped in the process of three raids or 8.5% of the total number of high explosive bombs. (The drop of every incendiary bomb not always could be separately recorded). Where to did the rest, i.e., 15 thous. aviation bombs, drop? On port facilities and industrial undertaking in Helsinki suburbs? Possibley. But the loss (in total) of three cutters and two cargo steam-ships make even this doubtful. The same Geust came up with the following hypothesis: “Using the guided flak fire with in advance calculated schemes of barrier shooting forced majority of the attacking aircraft turn away from the city and drop bombs in the sea”. This, of course, is only a view of one historian, so the questions remain. Possibly, questions these were asked also from Main Marshall of the aviation, Commander of the long range aviation Comrade . . Golovanov. One thing is indisputable: in the end of 1944 long range aviation was disbanded, and this was the stop on Golovanov’s fiery career (he became Marshall at 39 years of age making it from commander of a bomber regiment to the Commander of the long range aviation only in 10 months) (it was irretrievably ended only after Stalin’s death).

Overall, the February (“peace”, as they were called in Finland) bombing was insufficiently strong to break the will of Finns to resistance but quite convincing for those who still hoped for a possibility of concluding “an honorary peace”. 12 February 1941 Finnish government sent Yu..Paasikivi (former Ambassador in Moscow and eternal proponent of the policies of concessions and “appeasement” of Stalin) in Stockholm, for a meeting with the USSR Ambassador in Sweden. 23 February Paasikivi with the following “package” of peace conditions:

— 1940 border;

— transfer of the port and area of nickel mines Petsamo to the Soviet Union;

— disarming and interning German forces, which are in the territory of Finland;

— demobilization of the Finnish army to the size of the pre-war peace-time army;

— compensation of military damages of the Soviet Union;

— liberation and return to the Motherland of prisoners of war.

Remarkably, the authors of classical Soviet 12-volume “History of the Second World War” did not find in 12 volumes a place for including these demands and included only the following passage: “the Soviet Union stated peace conditions estimated in many countries as quite moderate and acceptable. However, the Finnish party responded that they are no good("History of the Second World War…", 1974).

Discussion of Moscow demands in a conference at Finland’s president began at night 26 February 1944. Massive raid of the Soviet aviation only sped up the negative decision. Whereas Finnish leaders already reconciled with the unavoidability of returning to 1940 borders, the demand of interning German forces, paying reparations and giving away Petsamo were at that moment equally unfeasible and unacceptable. 8 March through a deputy to Swedish minister for foreign affairs was passed the refusal to accept such conditions but at this expressed the desire to begin direct negotiations with the USSR. 10 and 19 March, again through Ambassador ..Kollontay, was received the following response: “Soviet conditions of armistice with Finland in six points, passed to Paasikivi 19 February, are minimum and elementary, and only upon acceptance of these conditions by the Finnish government are possible Soviet-Finnish negotiations...” (Komarov, 1995). Nevertheless, the Soviet government consented with coming of a Finnish delegation in Moscow.

Almost simultaneously with this, 13 and 16 March the US Secretary of State C. Hall, and then also President F.Roosevelt publicly stated that Finland must get out of war. Therefore, the Finnish government was quite unequivocally recommended to accept the proposed peace conditions while they did not become even worse.

And they could only become worse as after the final crush of Hitler’s Germany Stalin, on the one hand, would no longer need help from the allies, meaning restraining his appetite on their recommendations, and on the other he would be able to concentrate on the Finnish front the overwhelming military might.

Unfortunately, this simple logic was not timely recognized by the Finnish leadership. Negotiations in Moscow, which 27—29 March were conducted by Paasikivi and foreign minister Enkel, ended in a total collapse. Molotov insisted on “six points” and stated more specifically: banishment and/or interning of German forces in Finland must be completed by the end of April and the amount of reparations was determined at in 600 million dollars.

In order to properly evaluate this astronomical figure it is sufficient to recall that a renowned American “flying fortress” (four-engine strategic bomber -17) cost “only” 200—250 thous. dollars. After two weeks of discussion the government and parliament of Finland unanimously came to a decision, which 19 April through Ambassador Kollontay was transferred to Moscow: The acceptance of these proposals, which in part are unrealizable for technical reasons, would substantially weakened and destroy those conditions, under which Finland can continue existing as an independently state...” (Komarov, 1995).

This was a mistake, and as subsequent events showed — a very costly mistake. Moscow received additional propaganda “trump card”, which it was not slack at using. 22 April in the Narkomat for foreign affairs USSR took place a press-conference, at which spoke Deputy Narkom Vishinsky. That was a sample of demagoguery worth of personally Com. Vishinsky and his Master: “...The Finnish government in their relationships with German Fascists went so far as not being able already and not willing to break with them. It put its country at service to the interests of Hitler’s Germany. The current Finnish government does not want to banish German troops from Finland. It does not want restoration of peaceful relations. It prefers to leave its country in vassal subordination to Hitler’s Germany...” (, 1995).

It could be understood from this speech that only love to Hitler and the desire “to serve interests of Germany” forced the government of Finland to decline unselfish proposals of the Soviet Union about “restoration of peaceful relations”. And the insistent and harsh criticism of the “current Finnish government” gave reason to assume that Stalin would like to see (and even better — to install) in Helsinki a different, “correct” government.

On the other hand, so wide a publicity of the fact of occurring negotiations resulted in an acute crisis in German-Finnish relations. In mid-March was delayed the delivery of the next party of armament, 13 April Germany stopped sending grains and 18 March was introduced total embargo. Late in March head of the Finnish General headquarters was invited to come “for exchange of information” to the German Supreme Command. As Mannerheim writes in his memoirs, “the tone of Keitel’s speech was such that General Heinrichs rose and proposed to continue the conversation face to face”. It did not come to a fist fight at Generals’ level but the position of the German command remained implacable: grain and armament deliveries may be resumed only in the case if Finland gives official and public guarantees that she will not go for concluding peace with the USSR.

Whereas for Finland March of 1944 became the month of tragic errors, Stalin could in his right be proud of his Jesuit cunning. Never before his actions “on Finnish direction” were so successful. He demonstrated to his hated western allies a kindly readiness to take their views and wishes into account even in the issue related first of all to the interests of the USSR. He demonstrated to the allies and the entire world the fact of occurring negotiations and arrogant refusal of the “current Finnish government from the restoration of peaceful relations”. At last, Stalin was simply lucky — in Helsinki they clearly overestimated their forces and equally clearly underestimated seriousness of Moscow intensions. Now it only remained to wait for the optimum moment for the “final solution of the Finnish question”. That such moment will come, Stalin — based on the decisions of Tehran conference — knew perfectly well.

At dawn 6 June 1944 began the largest landing operation in world history — landing of the allied forces in Normandy. The scale of events exceeded anything, which earlier could imagine even the hottest fantasy. 1,200 combat ships, 4,126 landing barges, 864 transport vessels moved over La Manche. Allied aviation made 6 June 14 thous. sorties. By the evening on the coast disembarked — from the sea air — more than 156 thous. people. To captured footholds were towed floating ports, on the bottom of La Manche was laid a gasoline pipeline feeding the fuel to hundreds, then thousands of Anglo-American tanks, APC’s, self-propelled guns. On the eve of “D day” the allied strategic aviation destroyed all bridges on Sena and Loire rivers, depriving therefore the German command of the capability to redeploy tank divisions to the landing area.

The entire world waited with bated breath for the results of a grandiose fights...

9 June 1944 the rumble of unheard of artillery cannonade announced the beginning of the Red Army offensive on Karelian Isthmus. Mannerheim writes that rumble of the Soviet guns was clearly heard in his Supreme Command in Mikkeli, i.e., 200 km from the front line. 3.5 thousand guns, supported by bomb strikes of the aviation, which conducted 9 June 1,150 sorties, literally wiped from the face of the earth the front line of the Finnish army defence. Then in the narrow 15-kilometer breakthrough area formed near-shore poured the avalanche of infantry and tanks. Even by the uniforms (shoulder boards instead of Red Army colar insignia) the advancing army was not like the army, which in December 1939 with rifles trailed, began offensive on the “Mannerheim’s line”. The new Red Army, grew in three years of a terrible war new command cadre, rearmed with new, in many things — best in the world Soviet and American weapons, tempered in fighting engagements and certain of its invincible might, moved into the next “furious raid”.

In the new corridor of fortifications built at some distance from the line of front stopped in tracks in September 1941, the Finns unfolded in two echelons 5 infantry divisions (2, 3, 10,15, 18th) and two brigades. According to the official Soviet data, 21st and 23rd armies of Leningrad Front began “Vyborg offensive operation” with 15 rifle divisions (Secrecy label removed… 1993, pg. 122, 165, 167-168, 201). Therefore, the advantage in the infantry was “only” 3-fold. And this is really a modest number — if compared with the final stage of the “winter war”. The new Red Army hoped to solve the assigned task not “by pouring dead bodies” but by decisive massing of tanks, artillery and strike aviation on the directions of the main strike.

In the beginning of the offensive on Karelian Isthmus were operating one (30th Guard) tank brigade and 10 non-integrated tank and self-propelled artillery regiments (total on the order of 300 unit of armored machines).

By the end of the month in fighting participated already four tank brigades (30, 1, 152, 220th) and 15 non-integrated regiments. The absence of large tank groupings (corps and tank armies) was another characteristic feature of the Vyborg offensive operation testifying to the improved operative skills of the Soviet command. Conditions of the locality covered with forests, lakes and swamps did not allow implementing deep tank breakthroughs. That is why the armored hardware was distributed among rifle groupings whose numerical strength by the end of June increased to 28 divisions.

Quantitative advantage of the Soviet aviation was simply overwhelming. 13th Air army fortified with 113th and 334th bomber divisions, and also 2nd Guard fighter corps of anti-aircraft defence had 489 fighter planes, 346 attack aircraft IL-2, 288 bombers (IL-4, Pe-2, Tu-2). Besides, in operative subordination of the 13th Air army command were transferred air force units of the Red Banner Baltic Fleet (about 200—220 combat aircraft). In the first days of operation only three fighter groups (14 “Messerschmitts” Bf-109G from LLv-24 on airdrome Suulayarvi, 18 “Brewsters” from LLv-26 on airdrome Heinioki, 16 “Messerschmitts” from LLv-34 on airdrome Kotka) of total numerical strength in 48 fighter planes could cover Finnish units from air (Zefirov, 2003).

Subsequently in fighting engagements on Karelian Isthmus participated practically the entire bomber aviation of Finland’s air force of total numerical strength in 66 aircraft.

During the first week of operation, the offensive evolved exceptionally successfully. Deployed on the direction of main blow of the Soviet forces, 10th Finnish infantry division was wiped off and thrown back 10—15 km from the front line. As writes Mannerheim, “10th division, fighting near the Gulf of Finland, lost most of its artillery. 11 June its scattered detachments were withdrawn on line Vammelsuu-Taypale for replenishment and reformation”. Neither such events nor such expressions (“scattered detachments”) were encountered earlier in memoirs of Finland’s Marshall. In two – three days, units of the 21st army came to the main line of Finnish fortifications and in the morning 14 June broke it in the area of village Kuuturselkya. For the liquidation of the breakthrough, Mannerheim sent his main reserve — the only tank division in the Finnish army, which at that time was commanded by the renowned General Lagus.

Lagus division had quite a lot of machines (about 120 units) but mostly Soviet light tanks captured in the Finnish offensive of 1941 or even in time of the “winter war”. The only real force was a battalion armed with German “storm guns” Stug-40.

14—16 June in the south of Karelian Isthmus unfolded a unique tank battle. In it “hopelessly outdated” (version of the Soviet historians) already by 1941 Soviet tanks -26 and -28 tried to fight against -34 of most up to date modifications and heavy self-propelled guns ISU-152 whose armament and armour theoretically allowed for taking stand against German “Tigers”. By morning 15 June Finns were able to close the “breach” in defence formed at Kuuturselkya. However, this already could not change the general situation quite close to a catastrophe. 16 June (in the seventh day of the Soviet offensive) Mannerheim was forced to order general withdrawal to Vyborg and Vuosalmi, 50—80 km from the collapsed defensive line (see map No. 15). The withdrawal was going on in an environment, which the Supreme Commander himself describes in his memoirs as follows. On the northwestern direction advanced powerful convoy of the adversary. Before them were only remains of the crushed forces whose will to fight due to the adversary advantage in force was undermined...”

At this moment, the Leningrad front command made a first in count mistake. Instead of developing maximum chase tempo and cutting the withdrawing Finnish infantry from the only (!) bridge over Vuoksi River (such manoeuver would force the Finns to abandon on the western bank of the river most of heavy armament), the avalanche of the Soviet forces dashed along the coastal highway to Vyborg. The capture of this largest on Karelian Isthmus city happened already 20 June (11th day of the offensive!) and was celebrated by the artillery firework in Moscow and awarding the Leningrad front Commander L..Govorov the rank of a Marshall.

The fall of Vyborg, — writes Mannerheim, — was a bitter blow for the combat spirit of forces and simultaneously meant the loss of strong support point, which would tie in a dogged defence substantial forces of the adversary”. Still, much more important was something else — Finnish troops could retreat in organized way on a new defence line formed by a natural obstacle of a lake river Vuoksi, and by underdone fortification line between Vyborg and Antrea station (see map No. 13).

Second — and incomparably more significant in its aftermath — mistake of the Soviet command was the fact that the offensive of the Karelian front forces began only 21 June 1944. The Soviet historiography never and by no means commented on this strange incoordination in the actions of two fronts within the framework of one strategic operation (by the way, it became a united “Vyborg-Petrozavodsk” operation later, already in writings of the Soviet military historians). Held in archives operative directives from Leningrad front headquarters also do not contain any mention of planned interaction with Karelian front. Of course, it may be considered a “mistake” only in an assumption that the offensive from Svir River on Petrozavodsk was planned in advance. It is not impossible that Stalin hoped to crush the Finnish army in the offensive on the Karelian Isthmus and farther in the depth of southern Finland. After that Karelia would by itself “fall into his hands”. At least, exactly such version of what happened supports Mannerheim: “Possibly, the Russians believed from the very beginning that only one concentrated on the Karelian Isthmus powerful grouping would force us to surrender. Otherwise, it is difficult to explain the fact that they, having begun offensive there, gave us twelve day-long pause on the Svir front and Maselkyask Isthmus. At that time, we were able to redeploy from there on the Karelian Isthmus four divisions and one brigade. The fact that the adversary was unable to tie up effectively our troops in Eastern Karelia and also with the help of aviation prevent the regrouping of our forces, played a decisive role in the battle on the Isthmus...”

Finally the 4th, 17th, then 11th and 6th infantry divisions of the Finnish army were redeployed by the railway on the Karelian Isthmus. That enabled the Finnish command to implement to some extent organized withdrawal and solidify combat orders of the troops on a new defence line.

As if on command (maybe actually — on command?) the Soviet historians ended the narration of combat activities on the Karelian Isthmus by the capture of Vyborg. After this Finns ostensibly “asked for peace”, for which unchangeably peaceful Soviet government agreed with pleasure. This tradition of quite intentional disinformation continues to our days. In most authoritative collection “Secrecy label removed” the time framework of the Vyborg-Petrozavodsk strategic operation is indicated as 10 June through 9 August but the data about losses by forces of Leningrad front are included only for the period 10 through 20 June (Secrecy label removed…, 1993, pg. 122, 165, 167-168, 201). What, then was going on between 20 June and 9 August? Did the Soviet government patiently wait for the “crushed White Finns to ask for peace”, and in the Leningrad front troops during this time not a single soldier perished? If it were so...

With the capture of Vyborg everything was just beginning. At night (at 2330 hours) 21 June was signed operative Directive by the Leningrad front headquarters No. 74/. It ordered the front troops to “...continue offensive with the task no later 26.6.1944 by the main forces capturing the line Imatra, Lappeenranta, Viroyoki (emphasis added - M. S.). Simultaneously to clear up the adversary from Karelian Isthmus northeast of Vuoksi River and Lake by the offensive of part of the forces on Hiitola-Kexholm...” (History of the Second World War…, 1974).

The multi-page Directive includes not even a single mention that after coming to the line Imatra — Lappeenranta (i.e., BEYOND the line of 1940 border) the troops must stop and pass to the defence. In actuality coming to this line was denoted only as the task for the nearest (after capturing Vyborg) weeks! Interesting, albeit not quite specific information may be discovered in published 40 years ago recollections of Colonel General .. Popov. In April 1944, he returned on “his” Leningrad front, this time in a position of head of the front headquarters. General Popov writes in a straight soldier way: “The task of the operation was to destroy main Finnish forces on the Karelian Isthmus and to come by our forces northwest and west of Vyborg for a purpose of creating threat to most important life centers of Finland in the south of the country (here and thereafter emphasis added - M. S.)... 21 June 1944 the Supreme Command ordered Leningrad front to continue the offensive on the Isthmus for invading in the depth of Finland” ("Defense of Leningrad… ", 1968).

Some idea of the depth of this “invading in the depth” gives an order (without a number), which 20 June 1944 .. Popov himself signed. Order by the Leningrad front headquarters was addressed to the 13th Air army Commander to whom was set the following task:

“1. To conduct aerial photographing... of the area Kouvola, Kotka, Lappeenranta...

3. To finish photographing of the said area no later than 26.6.1944.

4.0 To report daily the course of the photographing work[370].

At this moment Finns, really, “asked for peace”. 22 June 1944 Finland’s Ambassador in Stockholm Gripenberg through Ministry for the foreign affairs of Sweden appealed to Moscow with a request relative conditions for Finland of exiting the war. Next day, 23 June, Kollontay passed the following response of the Soviet government: “...As we were several times deceived by Finns we would like to obtain from the Finnish government an official statement signed by the premier or minister for foreign affairs that Finland is capitulating and asking USSR for peace. In a case of receiving by us such document from the Finnish government, Moscow will agree to receive a delegation of the Finnish government...” (Komarov, 1995).

These few phrases had serious consequences and already have multiannual history of interpretation. The issue, really, is not simple as the phrase is compiled (intentionally or in hot temper) quite equivocally. If a country X capitulates before armed adversary, no negotiations with her representatives are already possible as the capitulation means, speaking in jurisprudence language, “loss of legal identity”. The country X stops being a subject of international law and surrenders “at discretion of the winner”. That is the meaning of the term “total and unconditional capitulation”. After this, there is no need to invite delegation for negotiations, and it is impossible, as this delegation would represent inexistent government of a vanished country. And to sign the Act of Finland’s capitulation would be more natural in Helsinki than in Moscow. On the other hand, even second rate bureaucrats at PCFA[3] USSR perfectly understood significance of the term “capitulation”, and it could not be used in an official statement by the Soviet government “simply for the heck of it”, only for “nicety of the style”.

So intense attention of historians to the three words (“capitulates” and “receive a delegation ”) has a very simple explanation. It is one thing to deceive “White-Finnish servants of the German Fascism”, and it is totally different — to deceive own allies in anti-Hitler’s coalition. And as Comrade Stalin gave in Tehran promise not to demand Finland to capitulate, Comrades Soviet historians were forced to rise to the summits of eloquence in order to prove a possibility of part-pregnancy and of incomplete capitulation. As presented by the leading specialist in the history of the Soviet-Finnish war Leningrad Professor N.I. Baryshnikov it sounds like this. “In these conditions it would be logical to direct at once the subsequent response from Moscow that Finland must send the appeal to the USSR government about capitulation in order to then solve the issue of the peace with the Soviet Union. At this, plenipotentiary representative of the USSR in Sweden A.M. Kollontay, who passed this response, explained from herself that capitulation should be understood as ceasing military activities from the Finnish side for achieving thereafter the corresponding agreement...” (Baryshnikov, in “From war to peace... “. 2006).

Every word here is “sapphire emeraldish”. There was “at once the subsequent response”. It could not “would be”. That is not the way it is spoken (and even more so, written) in-Russian. What kind of the “issue of the peace” AFTER the appeal to the USSR government about capitulation”? At last, understand ceasing military activities from the Finnish side”, whereas the other, Soviet party is conducting these very combat activities by the forces of 28 divisions, 4 tank brigades and 15 non-integrated tank regiments? How could this most amazing one-sided ceasing military activities in time of war may look in practice?

All this would be laughable but Finns were in no playful mood as despite all tongue-tie form the sense of the Soviet ultimatum was absolutely clear. Finland was offered to surrender to the mercy of the conqueror. However, the entire previous experience showed that there would be no mercy. Only one thing remained: practically, on the battlefield to prove to the “conqueror” that he had not conquered yet.

And the situation on the battlefield began to change rapidly. Brilliantly organized and sturted offensive of the Soviet forces began gradually to fizzle. On the other hand, Germany rendered to her perishing ally quick and efficient help. 13 June were removed all restrictions of grain and armament deliveries to Finland. 19 June torpedo cutters delivered in Finland 9 thous. “Faust Patrons” (hand antitank grenade launchers). In three days aircraft delivered 5 thousand more. Sudden mass application of this new for that epoch weapon produced operative scale effect. Before this the Finnish infantry was practically disarmed as low calibre antitank “Mariannas” and “Boforses” were only capable to strike sparks from the armor of new Soviet tanks and self-propelled guns. With the appearance, in many thousands, of antitank grenade launchers Finnish soldier again was feeling about himself to be a warrior on the battlefield and not a victim brought to the scaffold before the executioner. Mannerheim writes: “...I remember one case, which was really a turning moment. At appearance of the Russian tanks in the area near Leypyasuo several fearless warriors from 4th division, both commanders and privates, decisively moved toward the steel monsters and by several aimed shots from “the tank fist[4]deprived first of those any capability to move. The rest [of the tanks] immediately turned and escaped. Since this day the trust of forces in new weapon strengthened. The suppressed mood in a few days changed to trust, and again appeared a desire to fight. This total change of mood decisively affected the fact that the adversary offensive was possible to stop after all...” (Mannerheim, 2003).

Of course, the “Faust Patron” was no wonder-weapon as well. Rather rapidly were found methods (quite simple and inexpensive) to protect tanks against cumulative hand grenade thrower. Still, the new weapon let gaining several days and weeks, which was very much in June of 1944.

The Through the end of June 1944 Finns received 39 “Messerschmitt” f-109 G-6 fighter planes, in July —19 more machines.

That not only replenished combat losses but also rearmed several squadrons with modern technology. A problem of mastering new types of aircraft by flight personnel (a beloved subject of domestic historians when they begin counting “objective” reasons of the Soviet aviation crush in first weeks of war) was solved in the Finnish air force very simply. 4 hours of training flights was assigned for mastering “Messerschmitt” even in relatively “peaceful” 1943 (Zefirov, 2003). With the beginning of active combat operations retraining boiled down to 2 — 3 introductory flights and, as the results of the air war showed, for experienced and courageous fliers this was sufficient.

Beside forced armament deliveries, Germany provided at the disposal of the Finnish command also own combat units. Within Luftwaffe’s 1st Air fleet was formed an aviation regiment named after its commander “Kuhlmei grouping”. The grouping included 23 dive-bombers Ju-87 and 23 fighter planes (mostly heavy FW-190 used for storm strikes on land troops). 16 June aircraft of the “Kuhlmei grouping” overflew from Estonia on Immola airdrome (northeast of Imatra) and already 20 June participated in fierce air fighting engagements above Vyborg (Zefirov, 2003).

Between 20 and 23 June in Finland arrived by sea 303rd brigade of “storm guns” with 42 self-propelled Stug-40/42. Compared with the numbers of the Soviet armored hardware it was drop in the sea. However, for the Finns the arrival of the 303rd brigade meant a radical increase in the strike might of counterattacking units as in the only Finnish armored division by 21 June in battle-capable state were just 17 self-propelled guns Stug-40, 3 — -34, 1— KV, 3— -28 and 60— -26 (Kishkurno, 2001). However, it is worth noting that, judging by the documents of the Leningrad front and 21st army headquarters, appearance of the German units, multiply mentioned by western historians, was not even noticed by the Soviet command...

Complying with the Directive No. 74, Leningrad front troops began offensive from Vyborg on Imatra—Lappeenranta. Under local conditions, suitable for movement of armored hardware trajectory ran through Tali station and Ikhantala settlement (see map No. 13). During the previous 12 days, Red Army divisions made in continuous offensive 70—80 km. From Vyborg to Ikhantala is only 15 km as the crow flies. But they could not make these 15 km. In the end June 1944 next to these two unmapped settlements flared up the fiercest fight in history of the three Soviet-Finnish wars.

Having concentrated in the breakthrough area north of Tali 10 rifle divisions, the Soviet troops by 25 June punched through the defence of the Finnish forces to a depth of 4 — 6 km. They could not advance farther than that. Moreover, as Mannerheim writes, “the Russians were pushed somewhat back by counterattacks, in which our troops by nearly inhuman effort almost cut the retreat of this wedge and almost encircled it in a broad ring... For four days the front line fluctuated in waves, attacks and counterattacks followed one after another continuously... The last unit redeployed from the Eastern Karelia 6th division commanded by valiant Major General Vukhma, who perished heroically in these engagementstimely took positions and stabilized the defence at Ikhantala. The offensive, in which participated 1617 divisions, was repelled. We did not dare even hoping for it. It was a real miracle...”.

5 July 21st army headquarters issued the next “Operation plan for the breakthrough of Finnish defence positions”.

The army troops were ordered “...to invade the international border in the area... Subsequently, passing into continuous chase in general western direction, to destroy the withdrawing adversary groups and on their backs to overcome fortification corridor of the border fortified area and create conditions for further offensive of the army forces...” (TSAMO, fund 375, list 6675, case 88, sheet 19).

According to the intelligence data, the correlation of forces on the front of ordered 21st army offensive by 4 July was:

— 2.6 to 1 in infantry battalions;

— 5.5 to 1 in the number of machine guns;

— 7 to 1 in the artillery (TSAMO, fund 375, list 6675, case 88, sheet 33).

After suffered losses Finnish infantry units were just remnants with personnel numerical strength estimated by the 21st army intelligence at 170—260 people per 1 km of front (under the Red Army statutes operative density in defence must have been 1 to 2.5 thous. people per 1 km of front). Nevertheless, they were unable “to pass to continuous chase”. They could not even advance a single step north of Ikhantala .

After two weeks of endless and unsuccessful attempts to punch through the Finnish defence on the line Tali — Ikhantala, Marshall Govorov once again proved that he received Marshall’s rank not for nothing. In February 1940, having laid down on approach to Finnish bunkers one division, the red commanders immediately drove there two following ones. Early in July 1944 the Leningrad front Commander prepared and began implementing a complicated and quite promising operation. The operation design was in conducting a deep two-side envelopment the main Finnish grouping. Into the battle was introduced another, 59th army. In the period 4 trough 6 July, in close interaction with Baltic Fleet, it caught islands of the Vyborg Bay and began landing on the north shore of the bay, in deep rear of the Finnish forces. 4 July passed in offensive the 23rd army with the task to cross Vuoksi River in the area Vuosalmi and then, advancing north along the eastern bank of the river, to complete the encirclement of the adversary (see map No. 15).

An attempt to repeat the landing operation (practically “mirror image” of the actions by the 8th infantry division in the end August 1941) was defeated by the Finnish aviation and “Kuhlmei grouping”.

It would appear that with the numbers of fighter aviation used for “ invading in the depth of Finland” any Finnish bomber bold enough to rise into the skies should have been immediately destroyed. In actuality everything was exactly opposite. Finnish and German fighter planes provided such cover by their strike aircraft that not even one Finnish bomber was shot down in the landing area between 6 and 8 July (Zefirov, 2003, pg. 351). Units of the 59th army, which managed to land on the north shore of the Vyborg Bay, were stopped and thrown back by the German 122nd infantry division recently transported by sea from Narva area to Finland (Zimke, 2005).

Equally fruitless was the offensive of 23rd army. From 4 through 9 July Finnish troops were thrown off the foothold in the area of Yaryapyaya settlement. 9 July, after a powerful artillery preparation and under the cover of dense smokescreen, Leningrad front troops crossed Vuoksi River. 10 and 11 July onland and in the air were going on fiercest fights. Finnish fighter planes again provided for the “integrity” of their bombers, which morning to night bombed footholds in the breakthrough area. By 12 July the offensive of 23rd army finally spluttered, and the Soviet troops passed in defence on the east bank of Vuoksi.

15 July 1944 Leningrad front Military Council in a special Directive No. 80 subjected actions of the 23rd army command to a sharp criticism: “Komandarm-23 was tasked 4.7.1944 with destroying adversary on his foothold on the west bank of Vuoksi River and developing the offensive on its east  bank. For the operation were allocated sufficient forces and means.

Instead of organized lightning-speed strike and destruction of the adversary foothold in one day, the army troops milled before it 6 days. The units of the 98th rifle corps, having substantial advantage over the adversary (6-fold in the infantry, 4-fold in the artillery and aviation), only on the 7th day, at the cost of huge losses (1,046 killed and 4,265 wounded) cleared the adversary from the right bank of Vuoksi. A reason for unsatisfactory conduct of the engagement is: total absence of managed multi-service engagement... Analysis of the situation and timely conclusions were replaced by sending in-advance false, unsubstantiated reports and data... The management was accidental and without initiative... The 281st rifle division commander did not know factual situation, showed the absence of will and not directed the fight but was sitting in a dugout...

Combat activities in liquidation of the foothold and river crossing demonstrated tactical illiteracy, organizational weakness and inactivity of 23rd army grouping commanders and headquarters... Due to the loss of direction, absence of elementary organization of fighting, criminal delays in crossing tanks and , absence of maximum and correct use of the crossed artillery, 115th rifle corps suffered unjustifiably great losses (142nd rifle division — 2,476 people and 10th rifle division — 2,386 people). The corps, instead of building up the strike and increasing the breakthrough tempo in actuality passed to defence on a very narrow foothold...” (TSAMO, fund 375, list 6675, case 77, sheets 8-12).

It is hard to tell how objective and balanced was such evaluation of the 23rd army activities. Army troops did not simply “mill before the foothold” but tried to overcome defences of desperately resisting Finns. Possibly, Directive No. 80 was only a reflection of surprise and indignation, which engulfed Stalin and his Marshalls after the next attempt to squash “Finnish pipsqueak” turned out futile.

Already 14—15 June [July?] the Finnish intelligence recorded the fact of starting withdrawal of the Soviet forces south. 18 July the Red Army offensive on the Karelian Isthmus was stopped everywhere. Not at a single point of the front did the Red Army come to the line of 1940 border not even speaking of crossing it. This time it was impossible to burn Imatra station...

After stopping the offensive on the main strategic theatre Vyborg—Helsinki combat activities in Ladoga Karelia completely lost any reasonable sense. What was needed was quietly, without unneeded bloodshed to wait for the beginning of peace negotiations as neither in Moscow nor in Helsinki there were any doubts that the return of Karelia would be one of mandatory conditions to stop the war. Nevertheless, 16 rifle divisions and 3 tanks brigades of the Karelian front continued the offensive begun 21 June. Finnish troops (4 infantry divisions and 2 brigades) received and successfully accomplished the task of organized withdrawal from Svir River and Petrozavodsk on the line of long-term fortifications, running approximately through Pitkyaranta — Loymola — Kuolismaa (see map No. 14). On this line, the Soviet offensive was stopped in mid-July, albeit on the north flank of the Karelian front combat activities lasted up to 9 August. “21 July on the 1940 border with Finland came 32nd army groupings. The coming of the Soviet forces on the border with Finland meant the final collapse of the Finnish leadership plans”, — the authors of 12-volumer (374) briskly assured gullible Soviet reader. In actuality, only at one point, in the area Kuolismaa — Ilomantsi, Soviet troops came on the line of 1940 border. Everything ended up in the “final collapse”, i.e., pocket of encirclement, from which the remains of two Soviet divisions escaped, having abandoned all heavy armament among forests and swamps.

In the course of senseless and ruthless operation, troops of the Karelian front lost 17 thous. people killed and missing in action, 63 thous. people wounded. Losses of the Leningrad front are not known exactly (as was already mentioned, official data completely ignore losses of the heaviest engagements 21 June — 18 July 1944.). Most likely, only they were several times the losses by the Karelian front. Losses of the Finnish army (mostly — on the Karelian Isthmus) were very high. Only irretrievable losses (killed and missing in action) are estimated in various sources between 26 and 32 thous. people. In other words, irretrievable losses in one month of fighting in 1944 turned out greater than the losses of a victorious offensive in summer-fall 1941.

The fact, which perhaps clearer of all others speaks about substantially grown by 1944 combat might of the Red Army.

Completely overwhelming were the results of Finnish fighter plane combat activities. The Finnish data say that in the period 9 June through 18 July pilots of LLv-24 and LLv-34 performed 2,168 sorties and shot down 425 Soviet aircraft. Whereas the Finns themselves lost only 18 “Messerschmitts”, out of those in fighting engagements with Soviet fighter planes — only 10. The results of combat operations by fighter planes from LLv-26 were substantially more modest — 15 shot down Soviet aircraft. Of course, it is necessary to take into account that the group was armed with “Brewsters” vintage 1939. They long ago and many times exhausted the entire resource and by the measure of any other aviation except Finnish were good only for scrapping. German fighter planes of the “Kuhlmei grouping” performed 984 sorties and shot down 126 aircraft (Zefirov, 2003). These phenomenal numbers appear at first sight to be unbridled “fish stories”. However, most official collection “Secrecy label removed” informs that the losses in Vyborg-Petrozavodsk operation were 311 aircraft (Secrecy label removed…, 1993, pg. 122, 165, 167-168, 201). Repeating again, it is not known if the collection compilers took into account Leningrad front air force losses after capturing Vyborg. However, even if we take the “standard” for air fights in the Second World War triple exaggeration of the number of stated wins over the real ones, it comes up with one lost Finnish fighter plane per 8 shot down Soviet aircraft.

Mannerheim briefly and very accurately defined military-political result of engagements on the Karelian Isthmus: “The adversary recognized that a huge price should be paid for our crush” (Mannerheim, 2003). Said quite self-critically, without placating self-deception. The crush of the Finnish army, of course, was quite possible. In actuality, it was only a question of time and cost. Stalin would not have spared the cost but there was no time already. The 3rd Soviet-Finnish war ended on the same lines (Vyborg — west bank of Vuoksi River) and, which is much more important, for the same reason as the first, “winter”, war. Rapid crush and destruction of the Finnish army did not pan out, and Stalin did not get involved in protracted exhausting war as it could hinder the implementation of much more significant plans.

The knowledge of really occurred facts equally hampers both the writers and readers of military-historical books. A known psychological paradox is that everything that occurred appears to be the only possibility, non-implemented alternatives seem completely impossible. However, this is no more than an “optical illusion”. Everything could have been totally different. Today even a conscientious high school pupil knows that from allied landing in Normandy to capturing Berlin was 10 long months. Whereas then, in summer 1944, this could not know exactly even a single person including Stalin, Mannerheim, Roosevelt and Churchill. And the bomb blown up in Hitler’s Supreme Command 20 July 1944 could have blown up one meter left or right. In the case of a successful assassination attempt, military take-over in Berlin could have been crowned with success. In such a case, the capitulation of Wehrmacht in the West would be practically unavoidable, and a historic meeting of the Soviet and American forces could have occurred not in May 1945 on Elba but in August 1944 on Vistula. Is it necessary to prove that such result of war Comrade Stalin would have absolutely disliked?

By the way, even without accounting for the assassination attempt on Hitler’s life the German Western front in the end summer 1944 was close to a catastrophic crush. English historian Liddell Hart in his well known “History of the Second World War” writes: “...The war could have ended in September of 1944. The main German forces in the West were concentrated in Normandy and remained there until they were crushed or encircled. Surviving miserable remains could not render serious resistance and retreated. However, soon they were also destroyed by rapidly advancing allied motorized troops... As testify captured documents, on the entire Western Front Germans had about 100 battle-ready tanks against 2 thous. tanks of the allied forward groupings. The Germans had only 570 aircraft, whereas the allies on the Western Front had more than 14 thous. aircraft...” (Liddell Hart, 1999).

In mid-July 1944, fighting in the north of France was at its peak. Although the allied success was not yet totally obvious, in any case Tali, Ikhantala and other minuscule villages lost among lakes and forests of Karelia, could not already interest Stalin at the moment when began decisive for the fate of war and post-war Europe race to Berlin. History outwitted the great deceiver twice. Should have Stalin begun the 3rd Soviet-Finnish war in May 1944, immediately after the spring impassability, most likely the result of this war would have been completely different. Finland would have become impoverished Russian “Non-black-earth area”. Stalin, however, procrastinated and waited for the moment when all forces and all attention of the western allies would be chained to the corridor of the sea shore at Normandy and they would not be able to hinder him in the implementation of his plans of the total crush and occupation of Finland. As a result, there already was no time for the developing and completing the success reached at Vyborg.

Second, huge efforts, which in 1941 Stalin applied in order to force Churchill albeit formally to declare war on Finland led in 1944 to a completely undesirable result. This result is obvious already in the very first lines of the armistice agreement, which ended the 3rd (and last) Soviet-Finnish war. The Agreement was concluded “by the government of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and government of His Majesty in The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland acting in the name of all United Nations, being in the state of war with Finland...”

And acting together with “His Majesty in the United Kingdom”, plus in the name of “all United Nations”, Comrade Stalin was forced to “step on the throat of his own song”[5], and in many places at that. In March 1940, the negotiations in Moscow were conducted under the rattle of cannonade of the Soviet artillery. However, in September 1944 elementary demands of international law had to be observed. As a result the fire was discontinued two days before the arrival of a Finnish delegation in Moscow (7 September) and two weeks before signing the Armistice agreement (19 September). And conditions of the Agreement had to be coordinated in the process of four meetings (6, 9, 11 and 14 September) with the Ambassador of Great Britain Kerr (Komarov, 1995). And the organ, which “henceforth to the conclusion of peace with Finland will take upon itself managing and control of the implementation of these conditions”, received official name “Allied Control Commission”.

Actually, the Allied Control Commission became Soviet, and it was headed by no other than a secretary of the CC VKP(b) .. Zhdanov. However, legal status of the “Allied Commission” and the need to coordinate in the future conditions of the final peace treaty with still the same “United Nations” prevented Comrade Zhdanov from working Bolshevik style, with zest... Moreover, plagued by alcohol heart of a fiery Bolshevik was breaking from a thought that Finland could have been “forced to the ground”. Milovan Djilas writes in his recollections that in April 1945, at the time of official dinner in honour of J.Tito in Kremlin, Zhdanov said: “We made a mistake that the Finns did not capitulate”. Stalin (in Djilas’s version) supported Zhdanov: “Yes, it was an error. We looked back too much on Americans, and they would not move a finger” (Djilas, in “From war to peace…”, 2006).

The offence was so great that it outlived Comrade Zhdanov and through generations of other Comrades reached our days. In the collection of scientific articles published in Sankt-Petersburg in 2006 one may read such passage: “As Finland did not capitulate, the task of the Allied Control Commission and its chairman was made substantially more difficult — it was necessary to act through official Finnish authorities” (“From war to peace…”, 2006). It goes without saying, it was much easier to breathe and much more joyful to work in “countries of People’s democracy” where it was possible to act through “organs of authority” brought in a waggon train of the Soviet army...

As for the conditions of the Armistice agreement (mostly confirmed in the peace treaty concluded 10 February 1947 in Paris), they overall corresponded with “six conditions” of March — April 1944.  Substantial changes were three, and all they were not in favour of Finland.

First, the Soviet Union opening for it “as lease the territory and water space for the creation of a Soviet naval base in the area Porkkala-Udd”. Therefore, instead of naval base Hango at a distance of 100 km from Helsinki appeared naval base Porkkala-Udd 20 km from Helsinki.

Second, in Agreement and was input article 13, under which Finland was obligated “to cooperate with Allied Powers in the cause of detention the persons accused of military crimes and their trial”. In the future this point was used not at all for catching and punishing organizers of the so-called “Karelian partisan groups”, which terrorized peaceful population, but for supporting demands of the Soviet Union about commitment to trial legal leaders of Finland.

Third, the sum of reparations was lowered to 300 million dollars but payments should have been made by goods at pre-war (i.e., substantially lower) prices. That actually increased the burden of reparations. Moreover — in the future the Soviet Union presented a demand about paying to it Finland’s debt to Germany (6.5 billion Finnish marks, the sum equal to Porkkala-Udd “lease payments” for 1,300 years) (Yussila, Khentilya and Nevakivi, 1998). Formally-legally it meant that the Soviet Union declared itself the legal successor of Hitler’s Reich. A pretence with some morally-political grounds but hardly based on the law...

“Ill-gotten gains never prosper”. Today any tourist going from from modern New Vyborg to Finnish Lappeenranta may see the truth of this wise Russian saying. From the car window, it may appear that not Finland each year paid to the Soviet Union immeasurable millions but the other way around, the USSR paid Finland...



The word “history” has several different meanings in Russian language. Correspondingly, attitude to a common phrase “history does not know conjunctive mood” also should be different. If to understand history as the aggregation of the past events, naturally, these events are already impossible to change. However, for “history” as one of social sciences setting as their task understanding the sense and direction in the evolution of states and peoples, a review of unrealized alternatives has huge significance as often it is repeating more precisely and deeper the understanding of what occurred in reality. Of course, in order not to roll to the other extreme and not to substitute speculative myth making for science, it is very important to define the “boundary conditions” for constructing the alternative. In particular, to determine their reasonably acceptable chronologic depth.

In others words — since which moment do we begin to “architect the other history”? Since the summer of 1939 when Stalin made a decision to help Hitler in the cause of unleashing the all-European war? Or with 3 April 1917 when to the Finland (a funny irony of fate!) railway terminal in Petrograd arrived the known “sealed carriage” with a small group of major international adventurers? Or since 1 March 1881 when loving the people terrorists killed Alexander the Liberator? Or maybe even since the legendary “calling of the Varangians”?

Finishing a book devoted to the tragic history of the Soviet-Finnish war it makes sense to review possible alternative decisions and actions of the USSR leadership starting at definite provisional date — the spring of 1941. The choice of exactly this “time mark” is not at all accidental. The spring of 1941 — is that (maybe the only) moment in the history of Stalin’s empire when the interests of multi-ethnical Soviet people and the interests of the “collective Stalin” (understanding under this expression the Master himself and his closest surrounding) in the main and basic were coincident. Before this moment existed quite obvious discrepancy of interests. The Soviet people wanted peace and quiet. As it, the Soviet people, even without it lived not too joyfully and not at all easily.

Bloody war and all innumerable disasters, which fall on the backs of ordinary people before, at the time and after a war, were absolutely not needed to the people. Whereas Stalin’s highest ranks strived to unleash a large-scale war in Europe because they saw in war the shortest (if not to say — the only) way to the expansion of their authority beyond the USSR borders. Moreover, victorious war (and expected rich military loot) was necessary to Stalin also for the fortification of internal political stability substantially undermined by a big carnage of 1937— 1938.

With such drastic discrepancy of interests for the people and the authorities, any discussion of alternative becomes simply impossible as there is no unique evaluation criterion. From the viewpoint of people’s interests invading Finland, begun 30 November 1939 and having caused colossal casualties, was trouble, disaster, criminal mistake. From the viewpoint of Stalin’s interests, a mistake was only insufficient amount of forces involved in the operation, which in the final result did not allow crushing Finland within the timing acceptable based on foreign policy considerations. From the viewpoint of Soviet people interests it was necessary already in the fall of 1939 to render Germany’s adversaries — France and Great Britain — all possible economical help. It was necessary, as they say, “to remove the last shirt” but strengthen the Western front by gasoline, food supplies, munitions, tanks and aircraft (the more so that in the USSR tanks and aircraft were accumulated in astronomic numbers). And may they, English and French, fight against our common enemy! Any labourer will agree that it is better to slop sweat than shed blood. However, Stalin was helping Hitler but that was not at all a “mistake” — that was inalienable component of a plan to instigate all-European war. Without Stalin’s help Hitler might not have ventured to begin this war. Stalin’s mistake appeared to be only incorrect evaluation of French army battle capability — and no more than that.

In spring of 1941, war between Germany and the USSR became unavoidable. Not entering now in a review of the reasons for this (some of those were previously discussed earlier, in part 2), we will note the main: from this moment on both for the people and Stalin appeared common interest, common task. The war, which Hitler brought with him, mast not have been lost. In such war only the victory was needed. Based on this task we will try to identify possible alternatives in actions of the USSR leadership on the “Finnish theatre”.

In winter, spring and in summer of 1941, main military force in the territory of Finland was the Finnish army. Germany could influence (and did it) the decisions made by the Finnish leadership, however, these decisions were made not in Berlin but in Helsinki. Such situation was opening opportunities for a peaceful, i.e., the simplest and “cheapest” out of all possible, solution of the issue providing the security for the northern borders of the USSR. Namely:

— denunciation of Moscow treaty;

— return of all (or most) annexed territories;

— conclusion (better with the mediation and with guarantees from Great Britain and the USA) of a new peace treaty with Finland.

This alternative with the probability close to 100% could be implemented as it completely matched the interests of all parties. Nobody in Finland had any “Platonic affection” to Hitler and his regime — neither the people, nor parliament or leader of the country. For a democratic Finland the alliance with Fascist Germany was unnatural, anti-natural, forced step for which she had to agree in the tragic situation, in which exactly Stalin drove Finland. On the eve of war with the Soviet Union Hitler did not have either time or resources for war against Finland. These two countries have no borders. Redeployment of every division in Scandinavia represented a complex and costly sea operation. Subsequent purveyance of these divisions in huge degree depended on the good will of Finland, on her readiness to provide her transportation trunks for the transit of military cargo. In this situation Hitler was simply unable to force Finland to reject normalization of relations with Moscow.

The cost of such normalization in spring of 1941 would be minimum. Before the Red Army suffered crushing defeat from Wehrmacht Stalin could have conducted the negotiations from the position of strong but magnanimous partner. Possibly, a peaceful agreement could have been reached even without total return of all annexed territories. Strictly speaking, strategically important was only one question: preservation of the transportation corridor around the northern end of Lake Ladoga, i.e., railway from Leningrad through Kexholm and Sortavala to Petrozavodsk and farther everywhere. The solution of this issue would have made siege of Leningrad impossible in principle. Everything else (Vyborg, Koivisto, Enso, forests and lakes of Ladoga Karelia) was only the issue of prestige and economical benefit. In any case, to purchase cellulose in Finland would be cheaper by the order of the magnitude than to fight against the Finnish army.

The issue of a transportation corridor was quite soluble: an agreement of transit, provision of the railway in exceptional use of the USSR for a period of military activities, creation of exterritorial “special zone”, etc. With a desire and political will to find corresponding legal phrasing would not have been difficult. With a desire even those 100— 150 thous. ton of grain, which Germany used to hold Finland in economical “noose”, could have been found. Of course, in the time of war there is no spare bread, but on the other hand — where from did Germany get “spare grain”? Was it not from the Soviet deliveries? There was a grain problem but it should not be over-dramatized. In real history in summer of 1944, Sweden took it upon herself and successfully fulfilled the obligation of grain deliveries in Finland for six months after the disruption of relations between Finland and Germany. The Soviet Union, without any doubt, had incomparably greater than Sweden cultivated area and reserves of food supplies.

Possible military-strategic aftermath of a peaceful solution to the conflict with Finland is so obvious that there is no need of detailed explanations. In Baltics could have been redeployed (at that, redeployed in advance, not at all waiting for a crush of the Northwestern front) huge forces: two mechanized corps, fifteen rifle divisions, numerous aviation and artillery units of the Leningrad military district. On the whole, the grouping of the Soviet forces in Baltics would have been thereby increased almost twice! In the future, in July — August 1941, on the German front (and not on the front of the Finnish war, which nobody needed) could have been sent those reserves, which in real history had to be given to the 7th and 23rd armies. This is on the order of 9 divisions.

This is not at all a given that in this situation Germans would have been able to reach suburbs of Leningrad. However, with any development of a defensive operation on the southwestern approaches to Leningrad, even at so catastrophic as happened in reality, the siege of Leningrad (for aforementioned transportation and geographic reasons) would have been absolutely impossible. What it would have meant was not only the salvation from starvation of huge (until this day unknown precisely) number of peaceful Leningraders. It is worth recalling what cost to the Red Army multiple fruitless attempts to break through the ring of encirclement, how many soldiers, how much armament and hardware perished in Senyavin swamps, on the ill-fated “Neva dime”, in the encirclement at Lyuban. And at last, those 190 thous. combatants and commanders who were killed, taken into captivity and wounded in the 2nd Soviet-Finnish war, would have remained in the service.

The rejection of a peaceful political solution to the Soviet-Finnish conflict was, doubtlessly, a big mistake. However, it was only one part of the largest, strategic error, which was in that on the eve of a Big War Stalin arrogantly rejected any steps of rapprochement with his future allies in the anti-Hitler coalition. And if we throw off any craftiness, it is necessary to recognize that it was no “error”. It was quite conscious unwillingness to burden himself with any obligations and enter in such unusual and discomforting for a totalitarian despotism alliance with democratic countries. Stalin — as further events had shown — was accordant to shuffle on the Anglo-American allies only the cost of “damages” caused by his own reckless politics. On the other hand, Moscow did not want to share the close and, as it appeared in May 1941, certain “loot”.

Moreover, did not want to release the previous “loot”, the already habitual and “own” annexed territory of Finland.

In line with all these “errors” is also the decision to carry out aviation strike on Finland 25 June 1941.

The quotation marks with “errors” are quite justified. Even if completely to throw off version about provocation of the German special services, it must be stated that this decision arose from flagrant incompetency, from amazing mix of cowardly suspiciousness and totally unjustified underestimation of the adversary. It would appear that after a bloody experience of the “winter war” the understanding should have already come that a new war with Finland must be avoided by all possible means. Alas, Voroshilov’s delirium that “all these Baltic states… we will reduce these Misters to dust any time under any circumstances” was still sounding in the ears of the Kremlin rulers and they even did not think about the aftermath, which may have been caused by their aggressive stupidity.

After 25 June, after a catastrophic crush of the armies in western border districts, after the beginning of successful Finnish offensive in Karelia the “cost of the issue” multiply increased. In this, qualitatively new situation it would be already substantially more difficult to “bury the hatchet with Finland”. The return to 1939 border would have become a minimum condition for the beginning of negotiations (whereas just several months ago it was maximum, about which the Finnish party could only dream). In any case, Stalin’s proposals in the renowned letter to Roosevelt are speaking rather about stubborn unwillingness to see facts as they were than about a firm resolution to right the old errors. Here is the text of this letter:

“4 August 1941.


USSR attaches a great significance to the issue of neutralizing Finland and her breakaway from Germany. The break of relations between England and Finland, and blockade of Finland declared by England have already produced results and generated conflicts in ruling circles of Finland. There are voices for Finland’s neutrality and reconciliation with the USSR... If the Government of the USA would deem it necessary to threaten Finland with the break of relations, the Government of Finland would be more decisive on the issue of breakaway from Germany. In this case the Soviet Government could agree to some territorial concessions to Finland in order to pacify it and conclude with it a new peace agreement...” ("Correspondence...",  vol. 2, 1989).

By 4 August, the Finnish had already completely liberated all annexed territory of Ladoga Karelia and begun offensive on the Karelian Isthmus. The experience of first months of the 2nd Soviet-Finnish war gave quite specific grounds for an assumption what this offensive could end up with. To talk at this about “some territorial concessions” was, mildly speaking, nonsense. The impression is forming that Stalin hoped “to pacify Finland” mostly with the help and threat from America and England, plus continued flatter himself with eternal propaganda rubber stamps about “conflicts in ruling circles”.

It is important to note that by that moment a precedent had already been created of official waiver by the Soviet Union of the “loot” captured in a marauding way in the beginning of the Second World War. 30 July 1941 the USSR Ambassador in Great Britain I.Maysky and Polish Premier V.Sikorsky signed in London an agreement, in which the government of the USSR recognized as void Soviet-German agreements of 1939 related to the territorial modifications in Poland. Diplomatic relations were resumed with the Polish government in exile, which for a year and a half was for Moscow newshawks a beloved object of mockery.

The fact that similar radical steps have not been made on the “Finnish theatre” is, unfortunately, quite understandable. Stalin did not regret at all the return (on paper!) of the so-called Western Ukraine and Western Belorussia. By 30 July 1941, he already long ago lost them. Only incurable optimist could that day believe that the further fate of these territories would depend on Stalin’s will. Besides, Poland was a recognized ally of Great Britain, Polish fliers fought in the sky above London, Polish units fought in Northern Africa. Without the formal refusal of occupied in 1939 eastern Poland Stalin could not count on the cooperation with England and the USA. The annexed territories in Finland Stalin, apparently, still did not consider 4 August 1941 as irretrievably lost. For this reason he did not express clear and unequivocal readiness to return them to the legal owner. Neither a long chain of defeats nor the eery reality of the siege of Leningrad have shaken even slightly Stalin’s resolution not to return to “White Finns” even a single inch of the Finnish land.

Eventually, Stalin became the victor. He won, Finland lost. The cost of this victory was hundreds of thousands residents of besieged Leningrad, hundreds of thousands of the Soviet soldiers perished at distant and close approaches to Leningrad, Vyborg, Kexholm, Petrozavodsk... However, who he was in our places who counted these victims? “We won’t spare the cost...”


In the foreword to this book the author honestly warned the readers that the “Finnish component” of the issue would be reviewed only most minimally, and the major attention would be devoted to the actions and motifs of the USSR leadership. This book, in distinction from many others written by Russian historians is not about how Finland began war against the USSR. This is a book about how the Soviet Union began war against Finland. The book is finished. Now, having fulfilled the promise to the readers, the author considers it possible and appropriate to express in the last pages of text his view on the subject of the alternatives and errors in actions of the Finnish leadership.

Finland lost the war. This is a fact. The fact known long ago and admitted in Finland.

Already 25 September 1944, in his speech on the radio, a future president of Finland Urkho Kekkonen said: “...We all, the entire people must steadfastly endure this defeat. We lost war against the Soviet Union, our courageous struggle ended up in a heavy defeat... We have to recognize for ourselves and others that our valiant and stalwart adversary won over us... An honest recognition of this fact will become a prerequisite and touchstone for our national existence. Incubation of a thought about a revenge, open and hidden plans to return the lost, i.e., the thought about revanche, means perishment for our people...” (From war to peace…, 2006).

The aftermath of the defeat became for Finland exceptionally hard. The main raw-material riches of the country — the nickel mines in transpolar Petsamo — came to the USSR (now this city is called Pechenga). Together with Petsamo mines, Finland lost the strategically important exit in the Barents Sea. Finland had to pay colossal reparations. From the country ruined by multiannual war to equally ruined Soviet Union went 340 thous. railway cars with lumber, cellulose, paper, machine tools. If joined into a single train, these cars would extend from the shores of the Gulf of Finland to Africa (Kutuzov, 2006). Finland was forced to demobilize her army. She was forced to pass the leadership of the Ministry of Internal Affairs in the hands of a Communist Yu. Leino (son-in-law of sadly renowned “Mister Kuusinen”). She was forced to resign to the existence of a Soviet military base 20 km from the centre of Helsinki. She was forced to send in prison lawful leaders of the country only because they earnestly performed their constitutional duties. Sovereignty and independence of Finland hanged by the thinnest thread. Nobody could guarantee at that moment that this thread would be able to withstand a huge pressure of the eastern neighbor. And to come up with such results, the Finnish army and Finnish people paid by the lives of almost 60 thous. soldiers.

Could have Finland ended the war other than that and with others result? What alternatives were missed, when and why?

At first sight, there was an opportunity, and it was sufficiently clear and simple. At first sight from Finland leadership was required only to do nothing. To leave the situation as it was as of April — May 1941. As Comrade Trotsky used to say: “No peace, no war, and to disband the army”. Somewhat more specific: to remain neutral, not to allow deployment (or even crossing) German forces in the north Finland, not to allow even a brief appearance of German combat ships in Finnish ports, not to start themselves combat activities against the Soviet Union. Patiently wait for the end of World War. Under such option of events, Finland in the “worst” case would have ended the war without victims and destruction, without the loss of Petsamo, without the load of ruinous reparations. In a better case, it could hope that the western allies (USA and Great Britain) within the framework of a general post-war restructuring of Europe would force Stalin to return Finland part of the territories annexed in March 1940.

It is a very beautiful picture. Was it doable?

History is always multivariate. This is a firm subjective view of this author. And in this case did exist other than zero probability of the implementation of the proposed alternative. For this, Ryti and Mannerheim must have “only”:

— get through intelligence maximum reliable information that the Red Army was preparing to conduct the largest offensive operation in the southwest (southern Poland, Slovakia and Rumania), and that on the Finnish border for the year 1941 was planned only “active defence”;

— put together accurate forecast of combat activities in the future German-Soviet war; not simply assume but come to firm certainty that this war would be protracted, multiannual and exhaustive, that the Germans would reach as far as Leningrad and Moscow but but would not be able to take them;

— based on such information and such forecast, reject (in the negotiations in the end May — beginning of June 1941) military cooperation with Germany;

— not react to largescale provocations, such as bombing 25—26 June, in the hope that already in several days a heavy defeat in the west would force Stalin to leave Finland alone.

Thai is actually all that was required. This had not been done, and Finland came to those tragic results, with which she ended the war. Therefore, Ryti, Mannerheim and other top leaders made an error. But hardly it wold be possible to find even one unbiased person who would apply to this tragic error a definition “stupidity”. Was it easy not to make mistake? Russian historians to this day, 60 plus years after the war, are continuing to argue and still cannot come to a unified view of what Stalin intended to do in summer 1941. Many continue vehemently to deny the fact of the Red Army preparation to a grandiose offensive operation in southern Poland — although only preparation to this operation spared Finland from the Damocles sword of the Soviet invasion, which was hanging over it from summer 1940.

Even more difficult it was not to err in evaluating real battle-capability of the Red Army, its capability to withstand Wehrmacht's blow. Exceptionally difficult it was not to err on this issue for Marshall Mannerheim. He knew too much. He served 30 years in the Russian army having made a long way from a company commander to Lieutenant General. Mannerheim had the experience of personal participation in two last wars of the Russian empire (German and First World). In front of his eyes occurred catastrophic disintegration of the Russian army in 1917. At last, that was he who carried a heavy burden of commanding the Finnish army from the first to the last day of the “winter war”. Was it possible after this not to come to most pessimistic evaluation of the Red Army battle-capability? Could have Mannerheim doubted that the tank army, which, having huge numerical and overwhelming technical advantage, three months milled on the Karelian Isthmus filling it with tens of thousands of dead Red Army soldiers, would be immediately crushed to smithereens in the very first collision with the best army in the world, which in summer 1941 in its right was German Wehrmacht?

Mannerheim was wrong but in this he was far not the only one. Head of Wehrmacht's General headquarters F. Halder wrote 3 July 1941 in his diary: “It will not be an exaggeration to say that the campaign against Russia was won in 14 days”. Neither Mannerheim nor Halder or dozens of other politicians and Generals (including in countries of the anti-Hitler coalition) could understand and believe the fact that the Soviet-German war, a war between Stalin and Hitler, would turn into Great Patriotic war of the Soviet people. This was their major blunder. But let us not to be too strict. What can we expect from contemporaries of blisteringly rushing events if until this day the majority of Soviet (and currently Russian) historians do not wish to understand and admit this, really not primitive, dialectic of transition from the scuffle unleashed by two dictators for carving up the loot to a Great Liberation war to which a great people rose?

Returning in spring of 1941, we cannot but recognize that from a suggestion of unavoidable and rapid crush of the Red Army silhouetted completely different strategy of Finland’s activities. To whom the territory of Karelia should be abandoned? To the Germans? Plan “Barbarossa”, as we know, set as the final goal of the operation “creation of a blocking barrier along the general line Volga Archangel”. German occupation zone at this must have included all territories of the Russian north populated with Karels, Finns, Vepsians. Moreover, after a successful implementation of the plan “Barbarossa” the eastern neighbor of Finland would have become not the Soviet Union but Hitler’s Third Reich multiply strengthened by raw materials and manufacturing resources of the former USSR.

In real history Mannerheim rejected multiple proposals of the German command to advance for joining with Wehrmacht from river Svir to Tikhvin and Volkhov. He channelled main efforts of the Finnish army to the creation of a defensive line along the line Segozero  — Lake Onega — Svir River — Lake Ladoga. Against whom, against which army did Mannerheim intend to defend on this line? Maybe from the Germans?

With great desire, it is possible, of course, to find something in common between the actions of the Finnish leadership in summer 1941 and invasion of Poland by the Red Army in September 1939. Yes, there are clear features of similarity. In either case, main propaganda argument became “the protection of consanguineous brothers abandoned to the mercy of fate by previous hapless rulers”. However, this rather formal than substantial moment is the end of all coincidences. Further on opens huge conceptual difference in objectives and results of Stalin’s and Mannerheim’s activities.

In September 1939, Stalin could save Poland but chose to ruin it. Mannerheim and his valiant army, due to a huge difference in size could not in summer of 1941 radically change the course of combat activities and save the Red Army from crush. In September 1939 Stalin occupied half (52%) of the territory of Poland, in which before the war lived more than one third of the total population. In the fall of 1941, Finnish army occupied the territory, in which lived less than one third of one percent of the USSR population and were absent military-industrial enterprises of any significance. In September of 1939, mutual goal of Stalin and Hitler was liquidation of the Polish statehood (which was directly and clearly declared in joint documents published in the first page of “Pravda” newspaper). The crushing blow by the Red Army in substantial degree facilitated the achievement of this criminal goal. Whereas Finland was liberating the territory annexed from her and tried to save his compatriots from Stalin’s terror. It was not his fault that this could be achieved only militarily...

After Stalingrad and Kursk Stalin already would not go for any concessions to Finns. From this moment (from the summer of 1943) what remained to Finland was only to wait for the inevitable reckoning for her participation with Hitler in war. With hindsight, one may assume that sometime in about 1942 there was a moment when Finnish leadership could get out of war by having decisively torn with Germany and agreed to substantial territorial concessions to Stalin. Maybe in 1942 such agreement with Moscow was still a possibility. In any case, conclusion of peace with Finland would automatically mean “peaceful breakthrough” of Leningrad siege and satisfy both short- and long-term interests of the Soviet and Finnish peoples. The fact that such agreement was not reached is a heavy burden on the conscience of political leaders of the two countries. About whether any attempts to reach such agreement were undertaken, this author knows nothing.

Summarizing all aforementioned, we have to agree that the leaders of Finland also could not find such exit from endlessly complex and unpredictable situation of 1940 —1941, which would have protected the interests and honor of their country. Still, on the scales of history tragic errors committed in the struggle to save the Finnish people and his statehood must have different weight compared with aggressive stupidity of Stalin and his hangers-on.



[1] A line from a song “March of the Soviet tankers.

[2] Lines from A.A.Surkov’s “Song of the brave”

[3] People’s Commissariat for Foreign Affairs.

[4] Fist is Faust in German.

[5] A line from Mayakovsky’s poem “At the top of own voice”.

Print Version

Views: 4322

Add to Bookmarks | Code for Blog
Mark Solonin. 25 June. Stupidity or aggression? Part 4
Part 4. THE CRUSH. MACHINES WILL GO IN THE FIERCE RAID[1] ... The aviation strike on Finland, which occurred 2526 June 1941, was at least sometimes mentioned in especially thick books by Soviet historians. However, practically nothing was written about offensive actions of the Red Army land forces in the Finnish territory.....
Copyright Mark Solonin
Developed by brandangels.ru
Using site materials with reference only to solonin.org