Russo-Finnish Relations, 1937-1947

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Martin, Rex
Rev. William Greytak
John Semmens
William Lang
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Russo-Finnish Relations, 1937-1947
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In 1967 the Finnish Republic celebrated Its fiftieth anniversary. That Finland can celebrate her freedom is rather amazing In view of the Soviet Union’s domination, with the exception of Greece, of every nation In East Europe from the Baltic to the Mediterranean. It is hard to believe that Finland, which In the period from 1939 to 19444 fought two wars against the Soviet Union and lost both, can still be independent. In the 1920's and 1930’s Finland was regarded, by foreigners and Finns alike, as the extreme outpost of the Western "civilized" world against the East. Prevailing Finnish attitudes toward the Russians were antagonistic In the extreme. One Russian diplomat of the 1930's characterized the Finn's attitude as "a zoological hate." This "zoological hate" carried over into Finnish-Soviet relations, which were strained from the time of Finland's declaration of independence In 1917 to the end of the Second World War. Considering the above factors, It would appear inconceivable that Soviet leaders would disregard any chance to Incorporate Finland Into the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. The first such chance to incorporate Finland occurred for Russia with the completion of the Nazi-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact of 1939. Prior to that time, Finnish Independence was based upon the opposing interests of Germany and Russia In the Baltic. It was this conflict of Interests that kept Finland free from Soviet control. However, once the Pact was concluded and German attention turned westward and northward, Finland was open to Soviet aggression. Certainly after the Winter War of 1939-1940, the Soviet Union could have Incorporated Finland, given the fact that although Finland's resistance was heroic, Russia's victory was complete. Surprisingly, however, Russia was content with limited gains: the Hanko naval base and a few hundred square miles of border territory and other minor concessions. In view of this restraint, it should be apparent that the primary goal of the Soviet Union was not to terminate Finland's independence but rather to preserve It In order to advance other Soviet policies In Europe. This becomes even more apparent when, following the "Continuation War" and three years of stalemated warfare, Russian troops finally broke through Finnish defense lines. All Finland lay open to Russian occupation. The Western Allies were not greatly concerned with Finland's fate. Even had they been, it is doubtful that any nation could have prevented the Soviet Union from absorbing Finland given the situation In Europe from 1944 to 1947. And yet, once again, the Soviet government ignored the opportunity of incorporating Finland. In view of these facts, quite naturally the historian wonders why, after two successful wars, the Soviet government settled the Finnish affair without ending the independence of Finland. It is the contention of this thesis that Finland remained independent only because the Soviet Union allowed her to do so. Be it noted that such an explanation is not generally accepted. Prominent historians advance two major explanations for Finland's continued freedom from Soviet domination: the performance of the Finnish Army and the interest and protection of the Western democratic powers.
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