The Winter War: Russia's Invasion of Finland, 1939-40

The Winter War: Russia's Invasion of Finland, 1939-40

3.3 3
by Robert Edwards
     
 

"Edwards recounts events, both shameful and heroic, with insight, conviction and considerable wit."—Publishers Weekly
On November 30, 1939, the Soviet Union's Red Army invaded the young nation-state of Finland, in the full expectation of routing the small, ill-equipped Finnish army and annexing the former Russian territory by the end of the year. But

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Overview

"Edwards recounts events, both shameful and heroic, with insight, conviction and considerable wit."—Publishers Weekly
On November 30, 1939, the Soviet Union's Red Army invaded the young nation-state of Finland, in the full expectation of routing the small, ill-equipped Finnish army and annexing the former Russian territory by the end of the year. But Finland held out for 105 bitterly cold, fiercely combative days, until March 15, 1940, when a peace agreement ended the short, savage Winter War.
At the stirring center of the story lie the resourcefulness and resolve of the Finnish people, who against all military odds—in want of ammunition, food, sleep, and troops—fought a blundering, ineptly commanded Red Army to a standstill. On March 15, they ceded to the Soviet 11 percent of their territory and 30 percent of their economic assets, but none of their national pride.
The Russians meanwhile had markedly damaged their international standing and effectively ruined their military reputation-to such an extent, as this probing chapter in World War II history demonstrates, that Germany, with proud-blooded Finland as an ally, dared to launch its 1940 invasion of Russia. At the same time, though, the fiasco of the Winter War forced Stalin to acknowledge the shortcomings of the Red Army and to reform it: Germany would fall at Stalingrad in 1941.
With authority, this skillfully narrated military history unfolds its story of the four-month Soviet-Finnish war and explores its consequences from London to Moscow, from Helsinki to Paris, to Washington, DC.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

The November 1939 Soviet invasion of Finland provoked worldwide outrage. Astonished at the Finns' fierce resistance, observers made comparisons with the valiant Greek defense of Thermopylae. In his first book, journalist Edwards delivers a lively, opinionated account of this half-forgotten but major war. After swallowing up nearby Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia, Russia required Finland to cede territory near Leningrad and in the far north and to grant several bases. The Finnish government balked. Thereupon massive Soviet forces, dreadfully led, poorly trained and scandalously ill equipped for the Arctic winter, stumbled forward into a massacre. Despite lack of heavy weapons, the Finns were brilliantly led by Baron Carl Mannerheim, who had also commanded during Finland's independence battle against the Bolsheviks in 1918. Moving on skis, they took advantage of the long northern night to attack, spreading panic. But after 105 days and immense casualties, the Soviets forced the overstretched Finns to yield and surrender 10% of their territory. Governments joined their citizens in cheering the Finns, but did little else. Edwards recounts events, both shameful and heroic, with insight, conviction and considerable wit. (June 5)

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Kirkus Reviews
A brisk, efficient account of one of the most overlooked episodes of World War II-the Soviet invasion of Finland. During the ominous lull between the Nazi conquest of Poland and the assault on France, the Soviet Union sought palpable assurances from neutral, democratic Finland to protect vulnerable Leningrad against attack, ostensibly from the British or the French, but in fact from Hitler, whom Stalin correctly distrusted. Finland's refusal to "grant to a foreign state military bases on its own territory and within its own boundaries" prompted the Soviets to launch a pretextual attack: "Heroic Red Army throws back marauding Finns!" proclaimed the Daily Worker. All the world expected a swift defeat for the vastly outnumbered Finns; instead, for 105 days they fought the Russians to a bloody standstill. Though he looks at the prewar diplomatic sparring and the midwar dithering of the Anglo-French alliance, Edwards focuses mostly on the fighting. Making exquisite use of the difficult terrain and the brutal weather, the ably led Finns employed skis, automatic weapons and mortars expertly aimed to repel the Red Army, which was stymied by an astonishing lack of intelligence and a fatally flawed command structure. The war ended with painful territorial concessions by the resolute Finns, but not before exposing the fecklessness of the League of Nations and unexpected, severe weaknesses in the mighty Red Army. Hitler looked on and concluded that Operation Barbarossa, his contemplated invasion of the Soviet Union, could safely go forward. Edwards offers only tantalizing details about the war's main actors-Baron Carl Gustav Mannerheim, the autocratic Father of the Nation; General Kurt Wallenius, thedrunkard and supreme soldier; Kliment Voroshilov, the absurdly overconfident Russian commissar for defense-and others on the world stage (FDR, Churchill, Stalin) who had their say about tumultuous events in Finland. He sprinkles the narrative with numerous delightfully snarky asides about the blinkered, progressive left, which persisted in rationalizing Soviet intentions and methods, notwithstanding the spectacle of the suffering Finns. Highly readable and informative.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781933648507
Publisher:
Pegasus
Publication date:
07/07/2008
Pages:
336
Product dimensions:
6.10(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.30(d)

Meet the Author

Robert Edwards spent twenty years as a Wall Street analyst and trader before turning to writing. He is a regular contributor to the Daily Telegraph.

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The Winter War: Russia's Invasion of Finland, 1939-40 3.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a great read on the subject. It is more of a political look than a military one.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago