The Winter War between the Soviet Union and Finland was a genuine David and Goliath struggle, with tiny Finland standing up to the might of the Soviet Union. The initial Finnish successes astounded the world. The war was fought during the 'Phoney War' period, and Britain and France came close to entering the war on the Finnish side, a mistake that might have dramatically altered the course of the entire war. The war also had a major impact in Germany. The Soviet attack on Finland helped to convince Hitler that Stalin could not be trusted, while the initial Soviet failures mislead the Germans into believing that the Red Army could be defeated quickly.
The author has used an impressive collection of primary sources, mainly the battalion and regimental war diaries on the Finnish side and war diaries, battle reports and casualty lists on the Soviet side. He also learnt to read Finnish to gain access to their military archives and secondary literature, so has access to both the Russian and Finnish literature on the war.
The book focuses almost entirely on the fighting on land, largely ignoring the political background to the war, the negotiations that ended it or the aerial struggle above the battlefield. While I can understand the reasons behind this approach, it would have been useful if the author had included some information on the peace negotiations and the treaty that ended the war.
The author successfully brings us into the frozen world of the Winter War, largely found in and around a series of Finnish fortifications, and in particular the Mannerheim Line, or in frozen woods and lakes further north. This is a very useful account of an often overlooked conflict.
1 - Plans and Preparations
2 - December 1939: Soviet Failure on the Karelian Isthmus
3 - North of Ladoga
4 - Northern Finland, Lapland and the Arctic Front
5 - Breakthrough on the Mannerheim Line
6 - March 1940: Last Stand-off on the Karelian Isthmus
I - Glossary of Finnish Terms
II - Typical Soviet Rifle Division Compared to a Typical Finnish Infantry Division
III - Unofficial Table of Army Ranks
IV - Loses of the 20th Heavy Tank Brigade in December 1939
V - Loses of the 40th Light Tank Brigade in December 1939
VI - Finnish and Soviet Slang from the Winter War
Author: Bair Irincheev
Publisher: Pen & Sword Military