For most of the world, 1939 was the beginning of World War II. On September 1, 1939, Hitler’s Germany invaded Poland and on September 3 of the same year, Britain and France declared war on Germany, kicking off the most devastating war in human history.
But there were other things going on too, things that were overshadowed by Hitler’s opening move. In December of 1939, the USSR invaded Finland and the so-called Winter War was started.
Explaining the Winter War’s causes is surprisingly complex, but to simplify it as much as possible, the war was about Finland having territory that the USSR wanted.
The actual fighting began in Finland’s favor because the USSR had been decimated by Stalin’s Great Purge, where as many as 30,000 of Russia’s most experienced fighters were put to death. This, along with the unsurprising advantage of higher morale, gave the Finns a leg up in the opening salvo of the war.
It didn’t last however. By the time February of 1940 rolled around, the Soviets had changed tactics and had brought in some more experienced leaders, and had driven back the Finnish Army to the point that in March of 1940, they ended up giving the USSR more territory than the Russians had originally demanded.
The Finns didn’t get a lot of international support, as most of the world’s focus was on Hitler, as he was deemed a much more deadly threat to world peace. What help did come, arrived much too late to make a difference.
A year later Finland and the USSR would be fighting once again, this time in the Continuation War. It would lead to even more concessions for the Finland people, but eventual peace.
As the case during war-time, people suffer, and governments bring aid. A lot of times, at least in those days, the aid that is brought comes in the form of air drops. This is especially true when the people who need aid are in hard to reach places. Of course, that’s not always the case, as the Soviets found out.
Find out how the cruel and very evil Russians tried to play on this tradition on the next page.