June 25: Foolishness or Aggression
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A real story of the Soviet-Finnish military conflict is much more astonishing than any other incredible invention. In 1945 an invincible, multi-million army of Stalin’s empire controlled the enormous territory, stretching between Yellow Sea (Northeast China) to the Adriatic, from Tehran to polar Kirkenes (Norway); Soviet tanks went through the squares in the Prague, Wien, assaulted Danzig (Gdansk), Budapest and Berlin – but couldn’t break the Finnish resistance, a country whose population (including babies to old men) was much smaller than the size of Red Army. Only three European capitals – participants of WWII, weren’t captured by enemy’s forces: Moscow, London and … Helsinki.
Soviet-Finnish conflict continued for years: the first war began in winter of 1939-40, while the last official one finished in February 1947 only (ratification of the peace treaty by the Supreme Soviet of USSR was done even later, on August 29, 1947). As for Stalin's “Reserve Finland”, a so-called “Karelo-Finnish social republic”, it survived its founder within the Soviet Union up to July 16, 1956 and notably, a decision on its dissolution was signed (at that time in the capacity of the Chief of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR) by the very same marshal Voroshylov who in December 1939 (in the capacity of People’s Commissar of Defense of USSR) headed the shamefully failed “triumphal march on Helsinki”.
But perhaps the most incredible thing about this story is that almost nobody still remembers it. Such words as “forgotten”, “lost war” best describe the Soviet-Finnish war, whose dramatic events “dissolved” in the grandiose perturbations of the World War II. It is hard (if possible at all) to imagine an American or British who doesn’t know that his or her country fought on European continent during WWII. Irrevocable losses of the Red Army during all Soviet-Finnish wars (1939-1944) were much higher than the number of ally’s solders, who fought for the liberation of the Western Europe; still, not only random strangers but even graduates of the history faculties of the Soviet universities could hardly name at least approximate dates of the start and end of the Soviet-Finnish war, its main phases and results.
The book of M.Solonin “June 25 - Foolishness or Aggression?" intends to fill this gap in the historical memory. The book is devoted to little researched period of the Soviet-Finnish conflict – the events of summer 1941 and, first of all, the massive attack of the Soviet aviation on the Finnish objects, which took place at the dawn of June 25 and “triggered” the start of the 2nd Soviet-Finnish war.
The basis for doing research was a huge pile of initial documents, being declassified during the last years, of the Soviet military and political leaders, archives of Comintern; not a single man had seen many of the documents, mentioned in the book, from the moment when they were archived! In front of the reader a stunning picture takes place, how Stalin constantly tried to break the “Finnish small fry” – to break by war, economic blockade, famine or undermine by an armed rebellion inside the country itself. These efforts which should have resulted in a new, much bigger (than in the winter of 1939-40) military invasion, time after time resulted in a complete failure. The fate itself has written (while M.Solonin presented this record to the readers with a brilliant mastery of a writer and historian-researcher) the fascinating thriller.
Having analyzed the details of the decision, made by the supreme military and political officials of USSR, with respect to a massive bomb attack on Finland – the decision utterly strange, taking into account the date (at the time of a war with Germany, Soviet AF’s losses on the Western border, rapid advancement of Wehrmacht inland), M.Solonin was the first among historians, who noticed that the events of June 25, 1941 have coincided with another, not less strange event, which is up until now is unsolved – an arrest of K.Meretskov.
General of the army, K.Meretskov, not long ago a Chief of General Staff of the Red Army, and at the moment of arrest – Deputy People’s Commissar of the Defense of USSR on military training of armed forces and authorized representative of GHQ Staff in the Leningrad military district (i.e. on the border with Finland!) was withdraws to Moscow on June 23 (two days before the bomb strike against Finland), - was arrested and suffered under torture. However, unlike dozens of other high military leaders, arrested during the period of “Stalin’s purges”, Meretskov wasn’t executed – in August of 1941 he was unexpectedly freed, appointed to commander of front and eventually – conferred to Marshal of the Soviet Union. Having compared these and many other events, thoroughly analyzed the texts of intelligence reports, M.Solonin had arrived to an incredible hypothesis: On June 25, 1941 the Soviet strike on Finland could have been resulted by a thoroughly planned provocation of the German intelligence services.
There is another reason, why research of the military events at the front of the 2nd Soviet-Finnish war is exceptionally interesting. In June 1941 the Red Army entered into the war with Finland with the most favorable conditions: armed forces, mobilized in advanced, started the military actions at the moment it chose itself, according to its own plans, against the enemy, much inferior in terms of technical equipment. Thus, the real events are playing the role of a unique “time machine” which allows answering one of the most controversial questions of the Soviet history: “What would happen, should Stalin leave Hitler behind in the summer of 1941?"
The basic material of the book is supplemented with the description of a civil war in Karelia (1918-1921) and a detailed review of the course and results of the 1st Soviet-Finnish war (so-called “winter war" of 1939-1940); this allowed to include the dramatic events of the summer 1941 into the general historic context.
My intention is to write a popular trade history book. I strive to combine the academic precision of argumentation with a language which is understandable and engaging. The style and the easy manner of narration make my books quite interesting for general public, not only academic historians. This book includes 170.000 words and 14 color maps of the military actions. As an illustration I can provide the black-and-white photographs of war-time, pictures, drawings and diagrams of military equipment.
Table of Contents
Review of the literature, common historical concepts, and polemics with Russian historians, and definition of the research problem.
Part 1. First attempt
Chapter 1.1. Finland, Karelia, Russia
Review of the little known events of the revolution and civil war in Finland and in the North of Russia (1918-1921). Peasant’s anti-communist rebellions in Karelia and participation of Finnish volunteers in it.
Chapter 1.2. “Large borderline cases in the village of Maynila…”
Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact and Stalin‘s first steps towards annexation of Baltic states. What did the Soviet Union strive for during the negotiations with the Finnish delegation in October 1939? Military and political preparations for invasion of Finland.
Chapter 1.3. Many-sided wonder of the “winter war”
Detailed analysis of the military actions during the “winter war” (December 1939—May 1940) on land, in the air and in the sea. “The Mannerheim Line” – an insurmountable line of fortifications or a comforting myth of the Soviet propaganda?
Chapter 1.4. Why did Stalin forgive Finland
Why Stalin had stopped the war in March 1940, without reaching the loud-voicing announced goal (to introduce a so-called “people’s government to democratic Finland” in Helsinki). Stalin’s strategy in the beginning of WWII. Unique documents concerning the USSR’s plans to expand in the South direction (Romania, Turkey, Iran, Middle East). Was Stalin upset with the results of “winter war”, did he doubt the military power of the Red Army?
Chapter 1.5. Conclusions and discussion
Part 2. Peace is a war
Chapter 2.1. A peace treaty or a “peaceful respite”?
On which terms was the “winter war” finished? The size and economic significance of the annexed Finnish territories. Was the security of the Soviet Union strengthened or, on the contrary, weakened after the first, unsuccessful attempt to defeat Finland?
Chapter 2.2. “Finnish people would become happy…”
Formation on the territory of the Soviet Union of a “Reserve Finland” (Karelo-Finnish allied social republic) Why the party cadres were learning at nights the Finnish language? Blood on the squares of Finnish cities – organized by Finnish communists armed action in Turku. “Community of peace and friendship with USSR”, which couldn’t break the neck of the Finnish bourgeoisie.
Chapter 2.3. An alarming summer
Summer of 1940 – Soviet Union “pressures Finland”. Soviet military base on the Finnish Hanko peninsula – a springboard of attack on Helsinki. Why did 305-mm super-heavy guns arrive to Hanko on railway landing plates? Operative plans of the Soviet Baltic navy. “Object: Stockholm” on military maps of the Soviet pilots.
Chapter 2.4. “Invade, defeat and take possession…”
Operative plan of a new invasion of Finland – unique documents dated autumn of 1940.
Chapter 2.5. “The main time was spent with Hitler on Finnish issue…”
November 1940, Molotov in Berlin, “Finnish issue” and failed deal of the two dictators.
Chapter 2.6. Last months of peace
Stalin’s last attempts to “pressurize” Finland before the start of the war with Germany. Economic (grain) blockade. “Nickel crisis" (a conflict around nickel mines in Petsamo). Finnish ambassador leaves Moscow.
Chapter 2.7. Very active defense
The forces ratio in the Soviet-Finnish border. Operative plans of the Soviet commandment. Tension increases
Chapter 2.8. Conclusions and discussion
Part 3. Ten days of summer in 1941
Chapter 3.1. Tuesday, June 17
Why was the 1st tank division relocated to the unpopulated polar tundra?
Chapter 3.2. “Germans initiated the military actions…”
First hours of the Soviet-German war. War actions in the Baltic Sea and in the air above it
Chapter 3.3. Statement of question
The main question of research: what was the goal and what was the final result of the Soviet bomb strike at Finland on June 25, 1941?
Chapter 3.4. Composition and location
Composition and location of parties’ AF, Finnish AF as well as grouping of the Soviet AF near Leningrad: composition, armament, forces ratio, operative plans
Chapter 3.5. Flights waking and sleeping
Last three days of peace. Was the German aviation based at the Finnish airfields?
Chapter 3.6. Dome and dart
Soviet bombers and Finland’s air-defense system: composition and combat performance
Chapter 3.7. Wednesday, June 25
Chronology of events on June 25 in light of the documents from Soviet military archives.
Chapter 3.8. “Do not start the fire first…”
Why the air assault on Finland was stopped in the very beginning? Why the land troops received the order “not to open fire”?
Chapter 3.9. What was it?
First conclusions. Bomb raid on June 25 – shattering military failure with long-term, extremely unfavorable strategic consequences for USSR.
Chapter 3.10. Meretskov’s arrest
Who and why made a decision to strike at Finland? The arrest of the Deputy People’s Commissar of USSR, General of army Meretskov and a strike at Finland – two links in the devil’s game of Hitler’s intelligence service?
Part 4. Crash
Chapter 4.1. “And the tanks will go to a fierce trip…”
Soviet tanks cross the Finnish border. Invasion which everybody had forgotten.
Chapter 4.2. Defeat
Brief overview of the course of military actions of the 2nd Soviet-Finnish war (summer-autumn of 1941).
Chapter 4.3. Third attempt
Stalin, having broken the understanding with his allies, makes another attempt to break Finland by force. A bombing of Helsinki in February of 1944 is the biggest operation of the Soviet bombers throughout the whole WWI. June 1944, Red Army’s advancement is stopped near the South Finland. “The fate of the war will be decided in Berlin and not in Helsinki” – Stalin is forced to stop the military actions at the Finnish front.
Have Finland had a chance? Mannerheim’s mistakes and Stalin’s crime.
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