Sunday, 12 July 2009

Finland: Some History, Part Two

Unfortunately, Finnish independence did not come at a peaceful time.  Before independence, a class divide began to grow and tensions began to simmer.  They divided into the "Whites," consisting of Finnish military officers and the bourgeois, and the "Reds," the extreme socialists and the working class.  A coup in 1918 began a bitter and bloody civil war.  The Whites, supported by Germany, beat the Reds, receiving help from the newly-formed Soviet Union.  

Although Finland chose a new monarch, Prince Friedrich Karl of Hessen, German politics at the time forced the German monarchy to collapse and Prince Friedrich Karl to abdicate his throne even before arriving in Finland.  Subsequently, Finland became a republic.  

After the Civil War, Finland asserted its neutrality and independence.  Unfortunately, the beginnings of a new war began to simmer.  In 1939, Germany and the Soviet Union signed a pact consigning Finland to the Soviet sphere of interest.  Stalin and the USSR attacked Finland on 30 November 1939.  The Winter War, although but a hiccup in the grand scheme of World War II, but drew great respect for Finland from other countries in the world.  Roosevelt referred to the Winter War as the "rape of Finland" and Churchill stated the invasion was "a despicable crime against a noble people."  

The Continuation War, beginning in 1941, marked when Finland joined the Germans in attacking the Soviet Union, in order to take back the land lost during the Winter War.  Many historical accounts state strongly that Finland did not ally itself with Germany; rather, Finland was looking to regain its lost land.  In the end, the Moscow Armistice required that Finland cede back to the USSR most of the land originally ceded after the Winter War, in addition to a nickel mine and a port on the Arctic Ocean.  Furthermore, Finland had to expel the Germans from their country, leading to the Lapland War.

The Lapland War began in September 1944.  The Germans employed a scorched earth policy, which ended in severe destruction in Northern Finland.  Finland eventually banished the Germans in 1945.  In the end, Finland lost 87,000 people during the wars between 1939 and 1945, amounting to 2.3% of the population.  The war also left 60,000 people disabled, in addition to the devastated North due to the scorched earth policy.  

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