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Recalling the Winter War losses, 75 years on

The three-month war, which left high casualties among both Finns and Russians, ended when hostilities ceased at 11 am on 13 March 1940. The president and premier will take part in a ceremony on Helsinki's Kasarmitori Square marking the day.

Talvisota.
More than 150,000 people died during the brief conflict. Image: SA-kuva

On Friday events around the country commemorate the 75th anniversary of the end of the Winter War between Finland and the Soviet Union.

In Helsinki, a foundation stone for a national Winter War memorial will be laid on Kasarmitori Square, opposite the Defence Ministry headquarters. Those taking part in the ceremony include President Sauli Niinistö, Prime Minister Alexander Stubb and Speaker of Parliament Eero Heinäluoma. The statue, called “Bringer of Light”, by sculptor Pekka Kauhanen, is to be unveiled in 2017, the centenary of Finnish independence.

In the eastern city of Kuopio, there will be a memorial service at the Lutheran Puijo Church at 10 am, followed by an evening event at the main city library. On Sunday evening, there will be a choral concert at the Kuopio Music Centre to benefit war veterans.

In the Savo eastern town of Iisalmi, which suffered some of the heaviest fighting, Lutheran Bishop Jari Jolkkonen leads a memorial event at the Rukajärvi Centre on Friday.

Heavy losses on both sides

The 105-day war ended at 11 am on 13 March 1940, a day after the signing of the Moscow Peace Treaty. Finland, whose troops had been heavily outnumbered in the war, managed to hold onto its independence, but was forced to hand over about 11 percent of its territory. More than 400,000 people from these areas were resettled elsewhere in Finland.

Some 26,000 Finns were killed during the war, along with nearly five times as many Russians.

There are still more than 26,000 surviving veterans of Finland’s two wars with the USSR in 1939-1945. Their average age is over 90.

Yle has been virtually re-enacting the war on Twitter with daily messages from various characters involved in the war using the hashtag #sota39.

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