March 2, 1940 – View From Helsinki – The Soviet-Finnish Winter War
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March 2, 1940 – News from Helsinki Finland, as reported by Life Magazine photographer Carl Mydans and relayed to America via Finnish Radio.
The Winter War was a war between the Soviet Union (USSR) and Finland. It began with a Soviet invasion of Finland on 30 November 1939, three months after the outbreak of World War II, and ended three and a half months later with the Moscow Peace Treaty on 13 March 1940. The League of Nations deemed the attack illegal and expelled the Soviet Union from the organization.
The Soviets made several demands, including that Finland cede substantial border territories in exchange for land elsewhere, claiming security reasons—primarily the protection of Leningrad, 32 km (20 mi) from the Finnish border. When Finland refused, the USSR invaded. Many sources conclude that the Soviet Union had intended to conquer all of Finland, and use the establishment of the puppet Finnish Communist government and the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact’s secret protocols as evidence of this,[F 8] while other sources argue against the idea of the full Soviet conquest.[F 9] Finland repelled Soviet attacks for more than two months and inflicted substantial losses on the invaders while temperatures ranged as low as −43 °C (−45 °F). After the Soviet military reorganised and adopted different tactics, they renewed their offensive in February and overcame Finnish defenses.
Hostilities ceased in March 1940 with the signing of the Moscow Peace Treaty. Finland ceded 11 percent of its territory, representing 30 percent of its economy, to the Soviet Union. Soviet losses were heavy, and the country’s international reputation suffered. Soviet gains exceeded their pre-war demands and the USSR received substantial territory along Lake Ladoga and in northern Finland. Finland retained its sovereignty and enhanced its international reputation. The poor performance of the Red Army both encouraged German leader Adolf Hitler to believe that an attack on the Soviet Union would be successful and confirmed negative Western opinions of the Soviet military. After 15 months of Interim Peace, in June 1941, Nazi Germany commenced Operation Barbarossa and the Continuation War between Finland and the USSR began.
On this day the Winter War wasn’t over yet, there was still active fighting and the bombings of cities by Soviet planes were continuing. But there was a feeing the Russians had enough, even though they had made gains, the price was very heavy.
Because this broadcast was made via shortwave, the sound fades in and out and is unintelligible in places – this was the highest technology of the time, and even though it was far from ideal, it gave the news an immediacy that wasn’t available during the previous war.