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Finland's relations with the Soviet Union, 1940-1952 Krosby, Hans Peter

Abstract

In March 1940, Finland had just completed another life and death struggle with the Soviet Union, the second such struggle since Bolshevik autocracy replaced Tsarist autocracy in Russia in 1917. During the following fifteen months, Soviet diplomacy endeavoured to complete the job which the Red Army had begun. By a unilateral and extremely liberal interpretation of the Peace Treaty of March 12, 1940, the Soviet Union tried to isolate Finland from her other neighbours and to establish a favourable basis for a complete annexation of Finland in the manner of the three Baltic States. Surrounded by Soviet and German military might, and noticing the increasing friction in the Nazi-Soviet alliance, Finland, in order to save herself from an imminent Soviet invasion, grasped the only straw which seemed to offer some hope: a transit agreement for German troops from Finland's Bothnian coast to Kirkenes in occupied Norway. The resulting presence of German troops in the country did save Finland from becoming the seventeenth Soviet Socialist Republic in 1940 or 1941, but it also involved her deeply in the Nazi-Soviet conflict which followed. When Germany attacked the Soviet Union in June 1941, Finland tried in vain to have her neutrality respected, and she was attacked by Soviet forces three days after the German aggression. During the so-called Continuation War, Finland refused to take part in the general German offensive plan, restricting herself to attaining her own strategic goals only, all of them dictated by the requirements for the defence of Finnish territory. Nevertheless, when Finland was finally able to pull out of the war in 1944, she was treated by the Allied Powers as an ally of Germany and subjected to an exceedingly heavy indemnity, payable in goods to the Soviet Union. She also lost more than ten per cent of her territory and had to give the Soviet Union a fifty-years lease on Porkkala, ten miles from the capital. The retreating Germans destroyed ninety per cent of all facilities and resources in North Finland. Although Finland was not occupied, her government worked under the supervision of an Allied Control Commission installed by the Soviet Union. The government was forced to prosecute hundreds of war criminals, including eight of Finland's war-time leaders. However, as long as Finland fulfilled the conditions of the Armistice Agreement, she was allowed to handle her internal affairs in relative liberty. The Finnish Communists were unable to out-maneuvre the government and were removed from all positions of control after the Peace Treaty had been signed in 1947. Finland was also able to meet the obligations of the war indemnity, although the total cost to Finland was approximately $900,000,000. The general election of 1948 marked a turning point in that it inaugurated a period during which Finnish democracy managed to reconquer all territory lost to the Communists during the era of the Control Commission. In spite of that, Finnish-Soviet relations grew increasingly better after it had become clear to the Soviet Union that Finland intended to stay aloof from Great Power conflicts in all circumstances. By 1952, it could safely be said that Finland's relations with the Soviet Union were the best since 1917. But Finnish independence was conditional on her own policy of absolute neutrality and the future developments in the East-West conflict.

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