03/12 – The Moscow Peace Treaty

Finnish soldiers ambushing Red Army troops during the Winter War. (Pinterest)

On this day in 1940, the Moscow Peace Treaty was signed in Russia. The agreement marked the end of the Winter War, a 105-day conflict between Finland and the USSR. Intent on acquiring portions of Eastern Finnish territory for themselves, the Soviets had invaded Finland in November of 1939 following a series of false flag attacks. Unlike the Baltic countries (who gave in to Soviet demands immediately), the Finns fought back and succeeded in holding off the Red Army’s advance. With less than half the troops – and only 32 tanks – the Finnish army exacted massive casualties on the invaders through a combination of expert sniping, guerilla warfare and massive quantities of German-supplied methamphetamine. During the opening months of the Winter War, the immobile Red Army was beaten repeatedly by hectic Finnish ambushes.

A map of Red Army offensive operations during the Winter War. Soviet bases in Estonia allowed for an attack into Finland’s south. (The Map Archive)

The Finns were unable to hold out for long, however, and in January of 1940 the Red Army assaulted Finnish positions on the Karelian Isthmus with a 4:1 numerical advantage. The ensuing peace terms were harsh: Finland was forced to accept worse terms than had originally been demanded by the USSR, and over 12% of Finns were forced to evacuate to the West. The Soviets gained all of Karelia, Finland’s industrial region, and acquired 80% of the country’s factories. Despite the Soviet “success”, however, the Winter War caused a number of problems for the victors: emboldened by the failures of the Red Army, German leader Adolf Hitler decided to launch his invasion of the USSR much earlier than originally planned.

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