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  • Writer's pictureGeorge Castrioti

January 7th, 1940 - The Battle of Suomussalmi

Conflict: The Winter War (or Finnish-Soviet War)

Combatants: Finns vs. Soviets

Location: Finland

Outcome Finnish victory

Josef Stalin Secretary General CCCP 1942 by an unknown photographer

In the aftermath of the Nazi-U.S.S.R. pact and the division of Poland between the two totalitarian nations, Soviet dictator Josef Stalin, rightly fearful of Nazi aggression, began consolidating territories in the Baltic area. The Soviets also demanded portions of land along Finland's southern border. Finland resisted and deployed troops to the threatened region. The Soviets began invaded Finland on November 30th of 1939 with no official declaration of war. Despite greatly outnumbering the Finns, the one million man Soviet army was thrown back or badly blunted along the entire front.

Soviet equipment and fallen soldiers at Raate Road, Suomussalmi by an unknown photographer

In December, the Soviet 163rd Division was cut off and trapped in the Finnish village of Suomussalmi. The Soviet 44th Division was dispatched to breakthrough the Finnish encirclement but soon found itself also cutoff by the enemy. In late December, the Finns destroyed the 163rd Division. Then, from January 1st to 8th of 1940, the Finns whittled the 44th down to smaller groups before finally annihilating it. The Soviet Union lost nearly 28,000 men in the debacle while the Finns suffered casualties of about 900 dead and 1,770 wounded.

Points of Interest:

Carl Gustaf Mannerheim by an unknown photographer
  • Marshal Baron Carl Mannerheim, who led the Finnish defense, was in his seventies at the time of the Soviet invasion and had fought in the Russo-Japanese War, World War I and the Finnish Civil War.

  • The Finnish soldiers were mostly reservist and all were experienced skiers. The Finns made use of this skill to move quietly and snipe at Communist soldiers bogged down in the heavy snow.



Dupuy, R. Ernest & Dupuy, Trevor N. (1993). The Harper's Encyclopedia of Military History. New York: HarperCollins.

Eggenberger, David (1985). An Encyclopedia of Battles: Accounts of Over 1,560 Battles from 1479 B.C. to the Present. New York: Dover Publications, Inc.

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