The Finnish Border -- March 1940

The Finnish Border - amid a fresh blanket of snow; ironies.

The Finnish Border -- March 1940
The Finnish Border – amid a fresh blanket of snow; ironies.
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March 10, 1940 – Carl Mydans Report from Stockholm – Mutual Broadcasting – Gordon Skene Sound Collection –

March 10, 1940. Life Magazine reporter/photographer Carl Mydans, who had just returned from an assignment in Helsinki to the comparative safety of his listening post in Stockholm reports his observations on this latest wrinkle in the War over Europe. At issue was the war between Finland and The Soviet Union.

On 5 March, the Red Army advanced 10 to 15 km (6.2 to 9.3 mi) past the Mannerheim Line and entered the suburbs of Vyborg. The same day, the Red Army established a beachhead on the Western Gulf of Vyborg. The Finns proposed an armistice on 6 March, but the Soviets, wanting to keep the pressure on the Finnish Government, declined the offer. The Finnish peace delegation travelled to Moscow via Stockholm and arrived on 7 March. The USSR made further demands as their military position was strong and improving. On 9 March, the Finnish military situation on the Karelian Isthmus was dire as troops were experiencing heavy casualties. Artillery ammunition was exhausted and weapons were wearing out. The Finnish government, realizing that the hoped-for Franco-British military expedition would not arrive in time, as Norway and Sweden had not given the Allies right of passage, had little choice but to accept the Soviet terms.[174] Kyösti Kallio, who was the President of Finland at that time, resisted the idea of giving up any territory to the Soviet Union, but was forced to agree to sign the Moscow Peace Treaty.

The Moscow Peace Treaty was signed in Moscow on 12 March 1940. A cease-fire took effect the next day at noon Leningrad time, 11 a.m. Helsinki time. With it, Finland ceded a portion of Karelia, the entire Karelian Isthmus and land north of Lake Ladoga. The area included Finland’s fourth-largest city of Vyborg, much of Finland’s industrialised territory, and significant land still held by Finland’s military—all in all, 11 percent of the territory and 30 percent of the economic assets of pre-war Finland. Twelve percent of Finland’s population, 422,000 to 450,000 Karelians, were evacuated and lost their homes. Finland ceded a part of the region of Salla, Rybachy Peninsula in the Barents Sea, and four islands in the Gulf of Finland. The Hanko peninsula was leased to the Soviet Union as a military base for 30 years. The region of Petsamo, captured by the Red Army during the war, was returned to Finland according to the treaty.

Finnish concessions and territorial losses exceeded Soviet pre-war demands. Before the war, the Soviet Union demanded that the frontier between the USSR and Finland on the Karelian Isthmus be moved westward to a point 30 kilometres (19 mi) east of Vyborg to the line between Koivisto and Lipola, that existing fortifications on the Karelian Isthmus be demolished, and the islands of Suursaari, Tytärsaari, and Koivisto in the Gulf of Finland and Rybachy Peninsula be ceded. In exchange, the Soviet Union proposed ceding Repola and Porajärvi from Eastern Karelia, an area twice as large as the territories originally demanded from the Finns.

As of this broadcast the war was still very much going on while efforts to end the conflict had been underway since February. It was a costly venture for the Soviets who lost heavily and suffered a considerable amount of political embarrassment because of it. It also gave every indication to Germany that perhaps the Soviet Union wasn’t the formidable potential opponent it had initially thought.

Many surprises were in store.

Here is Carl Mydans’ report on the Finnish situation as it stood on March 10, 1940.

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