Skip to content
The article is more than 11 years old

Remembering the Winter War

Seventy years have passed since the start of the Winter War between Finland and the former Soviet Union. Some 23,000 Finnish troops were killed in the fighting.

The Soviets wasted no time in launching an assault against Finland once diplomatic ties were severed. Click here to watch footage from some of the attacks. (Subtitles not available).

Hostilities began with the Red Army dropping nine bombs on Finland's capital, Helsinki. Ninety-one people were killed and nearly 240 were wounded on the first day of the war. Fifteen other cities and towns were also bombed that day.

The port cities of Hanko, Kotka and Turku were among the first targets. Municipalities along the railroad route from Helsinki to Vyborg, in former Finnish Karelia, were also bombed.

In January, Soviet planes launched heavy assaults on the cities of Rovaniemi, Oulu and Lahti. Despite repeated bombings, the number of civilian deaths was surprisingly low. The Red Army also bombed villages that held no military significance to Finland such as Somero, Korpilahti, Sauvo and Pyhäntä. Hanko, on the southern coast of Finland, was hit especially hard.

As the war progressed, Soviet planes made their way deeper into Finland. Even the west coast city of Vaasa was not spared. In February, the Soviets focused their assault on railroad crossing stations. Following the war, Marshall Gustav Mannerheim expressed particular gratitude to the men who worked tirelessly to repair the lines.

The Soviets then began a heavy offensive against the Karelian Isthmus, the stretch of land connecting Russia and Finland. In the east, villages in the district of Kainuu were frequently targeted because they served as routes to the towns of Suomussalmi and Kuhmo.

Rail crossing stations behind the front, which helped bring troops and goods to soldiers on the frontline, were also under siege.

The town of Vyborg, however, was hit the hardest during the war. Bombers fired on Vyborg 64 times in order to demolish the city.

In spite of the heavy attacks, few civilians lost their lives. Nearly 100,000 explosives and fire bombs were dropped on 690 municipalities in Finland during the Winter War. About 950 Finnish civilians were killed and over 1,800 more were wounded.

However, some 23,000 Finnish soldiers lost their lives before the war ended on March 13, 1940.

Latest: paketissa on 10 artikkelia