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06.05.2002
Pentti Virrankoski

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[02] Karjalan palautus

KARELIA IS FINNISH HISTORY

The border of independent Finland and Soviet Union was set by the Tartu Peace Treaty in 1920, and it was almost similar to that of the former autonomous Finnish grand duchy. In addition, Finland was rendered the Petsamo area on the coast of the Arctic Ocean, which had basically been promised to Finland by czar Alexander II already in 1864.

The relations between Finland and Soviet Union were also adjusted by the Treaty of the League of Nations, which prohibited violence, and the non-aggression pact that was concluded on Stalin’s initiative between Finland and Soviet Union in 1932.

The main task of Finnish foreign policy at that time was to maintain independence. In 1930-s, the government was formed by liberals and social democrats, and their relations with Germany lead by Hitler were very chilly. When Hitler proposed conclusion of a non-aggression pact in 1939, Finnish government refused, deciding to look for support from other Scandinavian countries instead.

In 1939, while preparing to invade France and England, Hitler concluded an agreement with Stalin that divided Eastern Europe into spheres of influence. On the basis of this contract Poland was destroyed, and in autumn 1939 military bases were established by the Soviet Union in Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. These countries lost their independence de facto.

Since Finland was also included in the Soviet Union’s sphere of influence, Stalin made demands to the Finnish government as well. He needed to establish a navy base on the southern coast of Finland, 90 kilometres west of our capital. Stalin also requested moving of the southeast border of our country closer to Viipuri (Vyborg), the second largest Finnish city at that time, in which case the distance from the city to the border would have been only 40 kilometres. Since Stalin already controlled the coast of Estonia, his plans would have eliminated the possibility to defend Finland, and our government decided not to meet the demands.

Stalin accused Finland’s government of hostility and claimed that Finnish coastal artillery had fired at a Soviet ship. These lies were used in order to justify invasion of Finland on November 30th 1939. At the Winter War that followed Finnish armed forces fought solidarily and courageously, but since they were greatly outnumbered, our government was forced to accept a peace treaty dictated by the Soviet Union in Moscow on March 13th 1940. The city of Viipuri and southeast part of the country were taken away from Finland (see the map beside).

The Moscow peace treaty also provided Stalin with a military base near Helsinki: the town of Hanko and areas around it were leased to Soviet Union. Inhabitants of the territories forcefully annexed to Soviet Union, approx. 420 000 people of Finnish nationality, spontaneously moved to other parts of the country, since they did not want to become the victims of Stalin’s terror.

After the Winter War, Finland’s independence was in grave danger. Addressing the soldiers under his command, Stalin said that Finland is gripped in a vice – and that was correct, since Viipuri, Hanko, and the coast of Estonia were controlled by the Soviet army. Finnish government initially hoped for support from other Scandinavian countries, but this hope was crushed in spring 1940, when Hitler invaded Denmark and Norway, and Stalin prohibited the alliance of Finland and Sweden.

Soviet Union exerted great pressure on Finland in 1940 - 41. Finnish government was not familiar with Stalin’s new attack plan that he tried to co-ordinate with Hitler in November 1940, but the prospects were clear. Since Finland’s capability to defend itself was impaired, military support from another great nation was required. France had lost its independence, and England was isolated. The United States were very far and unwilling to get involved in European affairs.

Thus, only one alternative remained, and when Hitler commenced supporting Finland since summer 1940, very carefully in the beginning, the support was accepted. Majority of Finns did not approve of Hitler’s ideology or his violent actions, but there were no other alternatives to the government’s policy. When V.M. Holodkovski, an eminent Russian historian, came to the same conclusion in 1981, he was expelled from the Soviet Academy of Sciences, yet he republished the same work in 1989.

Although Finland was not formally affiliated with Germany, our government’s policy lead us to another war with the Soviet Union in 1941. Finnish army liberated the part of Karelia lost because of the Moscow peace treaty and manned the territory east of our border from which 20 divisions had invaded Finland in 1939.

In summer 1944, Stalin tried to occupy Finland once again, yet our army managed to stop the great assault. Nevertheless, in September 1944, Finland was forced to accept cease fire and give away the same areas as in 1940, and Petsamo as well. The population once again fled to the remaining parts of the country. The Paris Peace Treaty signed in 1947 did not change the existing situation.

Russians have given to understand that the reason for violence against Finland was the war that Finland waged against Soviet Union in 1941 - 44. The naked truth, however, is that Stalin seized the southeast part of Finland already in 1940, while being Hitler’s ally.

In 1941 - 44 Finland had to accept support from Germany, but were Churchill and Roosevelt, for example. in a position to choose their allies better? Did they want to help the communists terrorize the eastern part of Europe for half a century? Probably not. Accordingly, London, Washington, and even Moscow have ample reason to admit that Finland was not in war in order to help Hitler.

Finland’s independence and democratic rule were saved in 1939 - 1944 because of our government’s reasonable policy and the braveness of our army. The rights of our nation, however, were violated by occupation of the southern part of Karelia, where Finns have lived for thousands of years. This has sometimes been considered as some kind of an insurance payment that guarantees our independence – yet no nation in the world has the right to threaten our independence, with or without guarantees.

Therefore, who can deny that Finland has suffered great injustice, and that there is only one way to make it up? There is enough reason to consider, whether international co-operation should be developed with Russia before the areas that were robbed from Finland are returned to it by the Russian government.

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