Cover Osteuropa 3-4/2023

In Osteuropa, 3-4/2023

“Frozen Hell”
The Soviet-Finnish Winter War, 1939-1940

Michael Jonas

Deutsche Fassung


There are military victories that are hardly distinguishable from defeats. The Soviet Union’s victory in the Winter War is one such case. At Stalin’s behest, the Red Army invaded Finland. It was supposed to be a victorious blitzkrieg. But the invasion initially turned into a debacle for the aggressor. Although Soviet troops were massively superior in terms of personnel and technology, they were poorly prepared, ponderous, and no match for the Finns’ flexible defence. The Finns profited from their local knowledge of inaccessible terrain, used the deep snow to their advantage, and inflicted enormous losses on the Red Army by means of guerrilla tactics. But the Soviet army leadership learned from this phase, changed its operational conduct of the war, and was finally able to defeat Finland. The Winter War has been largely suppressed from Russia’s collective memory. In Finland, the first phase of the war in particular plays a positive role in the country’s national self-image.

(Osteuropa, 3-4/2023, pp. 83–101)