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The Continuation War started 70 years ago

Following the famous Winter War of 1939-1940, Finland’s Continuation War started 70 years ago this midsummer’s Saturday. The Continuation War between the Soviet Union and Finland lasted from 25 June 1941 to 19 September 1944.

Jatkosota. Presidentti Risto Ryti ja everstiluutnantti Aladar Paasonen tutkivat karttaa 5.7.1941. Image: YLE

The war was fought on the Finnish front, while Finland’s ally Germany waged its large-scale “Operation Barbarossa” offensive against Russia.

On the Finnish front, Finnish soldiers were responsible for the southern part of the front and German soldiers for the front in Lapland. The antikomintern-agreement between Finland and Germany had been in effect from 25 November 1941.

At first Finnish and German troops fared well, moving far into Soviet territory. However, as the world war gradually ate away at Germany’s powers, the Soviet Union started to advance on all fronts, including the Finnish front. By 1944, Finns were thrown into a desperate defence. The war ended the same year. A truce between Finland and the Soviets came into effect 4 September. The Soviet Union stopped fighting one day later, on 5 September 1944.

Finland signed an interim peace treaty with the Soviet Union on 19 September 1944 and the final peace treaty on 10 February 1947 in Paris. Among the conditions stipulated in the 1944 treaty was that German troops were to be forced out of Finland, which lead to the war of Lapland against Germany.

In the peace deal Finland lost the territories it had taken in the Continuation War as well as Petsamo. Finland was obliged to lease out Porkkala to the Soviet Union and pay its eastern neighbour massive war reparations. The two countries later signed a treaty of friendship and co-operation, and Finland was forced to always carefully consider Soviet interests in its foreign policy.

More than 63,000 Finnish soldiers died or went missing, and over one thousand civilians lost their lives in the Continuation War.