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Scarcely had he moved his eyelids,Quick becomes a mighty giant.
Ere the pygmy, full unfolding,
—The Kalevala, Rune 2
Finland as a sovereign state is a young one. The area was long obscure and unambitious in world affairs though the inhabitants were tough enough when put to it and even Vikings avoided them, apparently not being eager to go to Valhalla too soon. During the Thirty Years War and the Great Northern War it fought for Sweden. Later it became subservient to Russia and fought for the Czars. In World War I it fought for both sides; some took up the Russian cause, the Russians still being their Feudal Overlord; while a number of nationalists fought for Germany. When the Russian Civil War came, Finland declared itself independent, recognized by Lenin in the last day of 1918. This was followed by a bloody civil war, in which fought the Whites, who wanted Finland to be a monarchy with a German king, and the Reds, who wanted a communist republic allied with or part of the Soviet Union. The Whites won, but Germany had already lost the World War, and so the newborn state continued as a republic. Wounds from this eased between the wars as prosperity grew and a reasonably decent government was formed.
As the Soviet Union gobbled up the Baltic states and its share of Poland at the end of the 1930s, Finland, under the guise of its policy of neutrality and in international cooperation internationally cooperated with Nazi Germany. The local Nazi Party won the parliamentary elections, and Lapuan liike ("Lapua Movement"), a radical-right anti-communist loosely-organized organization was formed, then proceeding to wreck printing houses and beat up communist sympathizers, culminating first in the outlawing of communist activity and then in attempted coup, the Mäntsälä rebellion, in 1932.
The Soviet Union, worried by the rise of fascism in Europe, feared an attack by Germany via Finland, and attempted to acquire several tracts of land - by exchange in some cases and by loan in others - in Finland, mainly in the western and southern coasts in order to fortify its positions against possible invasion. The proposition was, however, denied, and the Soviet leadership deducted that Finland was allied with Germany, and proceeded to pour over the eastern border in a preemptive attack.
When a world power attacks a sparsely populated, agrarian backwood the only possibility is a Curb Stomp Battle. As such, it was a shock to all concerned when the Finns got their act together and proceeded to fight the Winter War, dealing almost as much damage to the Soviets as the Soviets did to themselves. Peace broke out after three and a half months of frenzy: Finland was forced to accept the earlier offer, and also lost large tracts of valued land as a way of war reparations.
Despite this, Finns considered (and consider) this their finest hour, a storm-tossed people united into David in David Versus Goliath, inflicting incredible casualties with their wilderness savvy, Heroic Resolve ("sisu") and ingenuity. On the other side, the USSR discovered what happens when one purges a large portion of one's entire military brass. This mess is actually a fine lesson in force multipliers and the disconnect between theoretical force and the ability to inflict damage on the other guy: it's amazing how little help two-to-one numbers and tanks can be when both are stretched into a column on a forest road, and the enemy has winter camouflage and skis.
After several months of peace Finland, with military aid from Nazi Germany, attempted to reclaim territory lost in the Winter War and according to one or two historians to preempt a feared attack by Russia. This caused the Continuation War, which Finland lost. As part of the terms of peace, Finland was required to expel the Germans from its soil. This required a third war, called the Lapland War. The Finns often gave German troops notice of their attacks and allowed them to withdraw in good order while attacking their vacated positions until the Soviets twigged and forced them to attack properly. Thus Finland acquired the distinction of fighting both Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia.
Despite the ugly backroom politicking, World War II is considered Finland's greatest moment (except by those who consider it a sad and awful time and/or fine example of fascist imperialism.). It's thought to have unified an entire people, though in truth the Finnish government never mobilized more than half of their reserves as they were afraid of another leftist uprising.
Because the Soviets were allied with Great Britain, the British were obliged to declare war on Finland during the Winter War; there was no fighting between these two countries and no British troops or ships were deployed.
- Ace Pilot: Ilmari Juutilainen (94 kills). Hans Wind (78 kills, with five separate occassions 5 kills on a single mission). 102 others, amongst them Jorma Sarvanto, who shot down single-handedly six (6) DB-3 heavy bombers in four minutes with Fokker D.XXI
- Adventurer Archaeologist: When Mannerheim was young the Czar once sent Mannerheim on a "scientific expedition" into territory in Central Asia that he happened to have political interests in.
- An Axe to Grind: A considerable number of the Finnish soldiers were lumbermen in peacetime.
- Atop a Mountain of Corpses: Or as one Russian officer said, "We have won enough ground to bury our dead."
- Badass Army: With hardly any tanks, planes, or artillery pieces, and with almost World War I technology. Facing many times their number.
- Badass Boast: During the Winter War, one Finnish officer said, "The wolves will eat well this year."
- Good boast for a Finn to make. They seemed like the wolves' cousins.
- Badass Bookworm: Finnish reserve officers, who often were college students conscripted to the army.
- Cannon Fodder: The Red Army
- Catch Phrase: Kollaa Will Hold
- Cold Sniper: Both literally (given the climate) and figuratively.
- Simo Hayha, AKA White Death, greatest sniper ever, AFAIK the second-greatest was another Finn during the Winter War. After having collected 522 confirmed kills with his Mosin rifle with no scope and 200 confirmed with his Suomi SMG in 96 days (a record 48 over Christmas, no time for celebration), having survived Soviet army snipers sent to assassinate him, artillery barrages designed solely to kill him, and air strikes to his position, the Soviets got lucky, and he was shot in the face by an explosive munition. He woke up from the resulting coma nine days later, the same day hostilities stopped. Simo then withdrew to a peaceful life of hunting moose and breeding dogs and living to be above 90 himself. Simo was so much of a Badass that it is hard to believe, when asked how he could kill so many, he replied "practice".
- Conscription: The Finnish Armed Forces are even today based on it. Almost every Finnish adult male is a soldier - in theory, at least.
- Cool Gun: The Suomi. This ugly submachine-gun had a tremendous rate of fire. It was very useful for creeping up to a Russian encampment and blazing away at them at point-blank range, then disappearing into the woods.
- Seeing their effectiveness, the Russians eventually made the PPSh-41, another Cool Gun.
- A common tactic in the almost roadless wastes of N Finland was to divide the huge Russian columns into small "Motti" pockets by such strikes (A Motti means a cubic metre of firewood), then taking out their field kitchens; in - 40 C, no food is a bad thing- a VERY bad thing.
- Lahti L-39 Norsupyssy ("The Elephant Gun"). Originally a 20 mm anti-tank rifle, later employed as super-heavy sniper rifle.
- The modern Finnish Army uses the RK-62 rifle, a licensed version of the AK-47.
- The Sako TRG 42 Lapua Magnum is in widespread use amongst specialist snipers around the world. We Danes use them in Upper Gheresk Valley, Helmand; to great effect.
- Conservation of Ninjitsu : Inverted and played straight by the Red Army
- Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: Finnish reserve lieutenants. Mostly high school and college students conscripted to service - and they made a legend.
- David Versus Goliath: This is what it was all about.
- Deus Ex Machina: The battle of Tali-Ihantala 1944, where Finnish Air Force and Luftwaffe Detachment Kuhlmey turned the tables and enabled Finns to successfully counterattack.
- Determined Homesteader: Any homesteader in Finland has got to be determined. These were the basis of Finland's Badass Army.
- Decontamination Chamber: Field saunas were almost a necessity, not just to keep men warm enough to fight but to kill lice.
- Distracted by The Field Kitchen: The so called Makkarasota (Sausage War). An entire Soviet offence was delayed because the saboteur team was too busy trying to steal food from the Finnish field kitchen and got gunned down.
- Eagle Squadron: Swedish Volunteers, especially fighter squadron Flygflottilj 19, which flew Gloster Gladiator fighters and Hawker Hart light bombers.
- Four-Star Badass: A number. Mannerheim is the best remembered. Interestingly he was the only general to be a general in both World Wars.
- Friendly Sniper: Simo Häyhä
- Good Old Ways: Marshal Gustav Mannerheim. He was a very old-fashioned aristocrat. And possibly a homosexual.
- Great Finnish Hunter: Finns were some of the hardiest people in Europe and knew their frozen woods like the back of their hands.
- Grim Up North
- HAD to Be Sharp: Both Finns and Russians, considering the area they lived. However Russians suffered tremendously from The Worf Effect in this war.
- These Hands Have Killed: Some Finnish machine gunners actually killed so many Russians that they got sick with PTSD after a few hours and had to be replaced.
- Heroic Resolve: Which the Finns called Sisu.
- It can be pretty hard to translate, but the closest one would propably be to have guts.
- Or "Idiotic single-mindedness". This is coming from a Finn. And isn't necessarily a bad thing.
- It can be pretty hard to translate, but the closest one would propably be to have guts.
- Improvised Weapon: Molotov Cocktails thrown at tanks for the burning gas to leak through cracks into the targets ammo. Mines placed in frozen lakes and set off when enemy tanks tried to cross, to create cracks. PIECES OF FIREWOOD stuck in TANK TRACKS to jam them. Other interesting weapons and tactics.
- Kill It with Ice: Mining the river, lake and seashore ice.
- Knife Nut: The Finnish Army does not issue knives to the conscripts. The reason for this is [paraphrazed from the Soldier's Handbook] that "Finnish people are taught how to handle knives from childhood. It would therefor be pointless to issue knives to people who already have their own knives that they are used to handle."
- Conscripts that go through NCO or Reserve Officer School get knives for their graduation. That's right, in some countries you get a class ring, in Finland you get a knife!
- Knight in Shining Armor: Played partially straight. Mannerheim affected this style and had a number of admirable qualities that remind one of this. He wasn't perfect, though, and some blame him for rather nasty treatment of Red prisoners during the Finnish Civil War.
- Let's Get Dangerous
- Little Country Big War
- The Lost Woods
- Macho Masochism: One Finnish General showed off how tough he was by walking around the battlefield with his shirt open. In the middle of the winter.
- Molotov Cocktail: While they were first used in the Spanish Civil War, it was the Finnish who turned the use of the Molotov Cocktails into an art. Since high-proof liquor was an excellent material for the Cocktails, a state brewery that produced 191-proof vodka became the main producer..
- More Dakka: Russian artillery toward the wars end. Some Finns were found dead with no external signs of injury because their brains had been shaken to pieces from the inside by the noise.
- Mother Russia Makes You Strong: Except they weren't so strong this time. Killing all their officers did not make for effectiveness. But give them enough vodka and...
- Must Have Caffeine: Coffee was even more of a "fuel" for the Finnish Army than it was for the US Navy.
- Also amphetamine, though that got less advertisment. Finland's drug policy stayed decades behind its neighbours due to the addictions gained during the war.
- Amphetamine was called vauhti (literally "speed") and höökipulveri ("pep powder") in the Finnish Army. It was commonly used amongst the rangers and Jägers, who managed to stay awake without sleep for a week or so with it. That gave them an edge in the long range operations.
- No Swastikas: Averted. The emblem of the Finnish air force was a vertical blue swastika. This of course has politically Unfortunate Implications, but in fact has little to do with Those Wacky Nazis.
- Some military flags and emblems still have them.
- Pint-Sized Powerhouse : At a national level that is.
- Averted at a man-to-man level. Finns tended to be taller then Russians.
- Simo Häyhä was 5'3/160, small fellow you did not want to mess with.
- During the war there was a (propagandic) saying that one Finn equals ten Russians.
- Pyrrhic Victory: What USSR gained both in Winter and Continuation Wars.
- Screaming Warrior: Hakkaa päälle!
- The Scrounger: Finland had to dig up weapons wherever she could get them, many of them obsolete.
- Snow Means Death
- Food for thought: That word,"Motti", is used a few times on this page. A cubic meter (a cube 3'4" on edge) of firewood was a common unit, even for small households.
- Shell-Shocked Veteran: Many. Drug abuse and mental disorders were commonplace during the post-war years, and Finland ignored many anti-narcotics treaties and imposing such laws because of this for decades.
- Take That: One Jewish major in the Finnish army was offered the Iron Cross for rescuing a number of German soldiers. He promptly refused.
- Story goes that Hitler demanded that one of the highest ranking German commanders in Finland (who also happened to be a nice guy) delivered the Cross himself (it was and still is one of Germany's highest honours after all). After landing on a frozen lake in the middle of nowhere and walking a couple of miles through deep snow in dress uniform he and his retniue arrived at a small tent. Inside was a group of bearded, ragged soldiers. When asked who their CO (the person about to recieve the Iron Cross) was one of them replied, in perfect German "That would be me". When complimented on his good German he merely said "That's because my native language is Yiddish." After a brief awkward silence the German officer said "Personally I have nothing against your people. I salute your courage. Good night gentlemen" and left.
- Another time some Finnish Jews deliberately had their synagogue service within earshot of the German camp just to remind Those Wacky Nazis that they couldn't do anything about it.
- To the Pain: Finns would photograph Russian corpses lying in the snow and drop them inside Russian encampments as a means of "moral discouragement".
- A Soviet camp somewhere in the dark woods. It's cold as frozen hell, the poor soldiers are ill-equipped to bear the harsh conditions. No proper winter clothes, no tents with stoves (if at all). To keep warm and their spirits up, they make open fires. Someone digs up an accordion, another a bottle of vodka. Suddenly a shot echoes through the woods. There goes the accordion. Then another. CRASH, that was the vodka bottle. Now what? Panic, that's what.
- Trapped Behind Enemy Lines: A Motti (a Finnish lumberman's term for one cubic meter of firewood) was a pocket of Russians subjected to this fate.
- The image of the word Motti seems to be of mundane and inglorious danger. Like splintery stuff left around after a chainsaw had done it's work. Non-lumberjacks might think a better metaphor might be having to clean up broken glass with one's hands. Of course the Finns preferred to let winter do that job for them.
- Undying Loyalty: One German officer told a story from the Continuation War when he was attached to a unit of Finns. The Russians abducted a wounded Finn and subjected him to Cold-Blooded Torture to lure his comrades to come to his aid and walk into an ambush. The Finns instinctively grabbed their weapons and walked into the forest knowing perfectly well what the Russians were up to. Another time, at the beginning of the Winter War a party of Finnish soldiers went to the house of an old peasant woman and told her that the Russians were coming and they had to be deprived of shelter. She went into her hut, solemnly cleaned and swept it, and then lit the fire herself. She said, "This is my gift to Finland."
Unfortunate Implications: After 1948, when Israel opened its borders to all Jews living abroad quite a few Finnish Jews who wanted to move there was met with some scepticism. After all, they had technically been fighting on the same side as the Nazis.