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What the Story of Finland in 1939 Can Teach Us About the Russian Invasion of Ukraine

Posted on Tuesday, April 26, 2022
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AMAC Exclusive – By Barry Casselman

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There are some curious parallels between an event of today and an event that took place 83 years ago.

In November of 1939, most of Europe was at war — a war precipitated by Hitler’s invasion of Poland in which he was joined by Soviet Russia. Just before that, Nazi Germany had signed a shocking non-aggression pact with its presumed sworn enemy in the Soviet Union. The pact had stunned the world because fascist Hitler and communist Stalin were ideological rivals and had opposed each other three years before in the Spanish Civil War, where each had sent men and weapons to opposing sides.

But hungry for territory, Hitler and Stalin set aside their differences, brutally carved up Poland, and immediately began looking for new conquests. On November 30, Stalin made his move when he sent 400,000 troops into his small democratic neighbor of Finland, bombed its capital Helsinki, and demanded that the Finns surrender without a fight.

The Finns refused to surrender and, with a small army and volunteers, held off the much larger and better equipped Russian invader until March of 1940 in a heroic effort that was closely observed by the free world. After the crushing of Finland, Hitler, who had his own Scandinavian ambitions, then invaded and conquered Norway and Denmark. Sweden, which supplied the Nazis with steel, was allowed to remain neutral.

Stalin had presumed his massive forces and the bombing of Helsinki would intimidate his neighbor into submission, and that the non-European world would not care about tiny Finland. Like another Russian dictator eight decades later, Vladimir Putin, Stalin was wrong. The courage and ingenuity of the Finnish resistance helped transform isolationist and pacifist U.S. public opinion into sympathy for the Allied cause before Pearl Harbor, when most Americans were opposed to getting involved in another European war only 22 years after the end of World War I.

A notable example of this was the case of the well-known American playwright Robert E. Sherwood. In the 1930’s, Sherwood wrote some of the most serious and literate dramas in the Broadway theater, including Acropolis, Petrified Forest, Reunion in Vienna, Idiot’s Delight, and Abe Lincoln in Illinois — the latter had received the Pulitzer Prize.

A young volunteer in the Canadian Army in World War I, Sherwood had become an outspoken pacifist. Idiot’s Delight, written as the first clouds of a new war in Europe appeared, exemplified his pacifism. Originally a liberal admirer of the Soviet Union and one of the first global celebrities, aviator Charles Lindbergh, by 1939, Sherwood had become profoundly disillusioned with both when the former signed a pact with Hitler and the latter made isolationist speeches on the radio. The final blow to Sherwood’s pacifism came when Stalin invaded Finland in November 1939. Deeply troubled, Sherwood wrote There Shall be No Night while the battle for Finland was taking place, and by the time the play had its premiere in New York, Finland had been overrun.

The play was a call to Americans to wake up from their isolationism and pacifism and recognize the growing threat to democracy from both Hitler and Stalin. Although Finland had fallen by the time audiences saw the play, the so-called “phony war” period in Europe had ended as Hitler sent his blitzkrieg past the French “impregnable” Maginot Line and was overrunning continental Europe. Then, in June of 1941, Hitler double-crossed Stalin and invaded Russia, driving the Soviet Union to become one of the Allies against the fascist Axis Powers.

Among those who appreciated There Shall Be No Night was the long-running temporary resident of the White House in the nation’s capital, Franklin D. Roosevelt. The president despised Hitler and recognized the Nazi threat to the world but had promised the American people that the U.S. wouldn’t send men to fight in the European war. He recognized that the eloquent Sherwood could help him in his effort to change public opinion, so he invited him to the White House. This meeting resulted in Sherwood becoming one of Roosevelt’s main speechwriters, a position he held until the end of FDR’s term in 1945.

As for Stalin’s Soviet Union, they provided the Allies with an important second front against Hitler and suffered grievous casualties in doing so. But as soon as the war was over, Stalin resumed his imperialist strategy of controlling neighboring nations in eastern Europe and trying to spread totalitarian communism throughout the world. This led to a “Cold War” between the U.S. and other democracies, lasting 45 years until the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union.

After a brief democratic period, the new Russian Federation under Vladimir Putin once again began a period of territorial expansion. Just as his autocratic predecessors, the czars and Stalin, had done, Putin began to enlarge his domain, annexing Crimea and trying to reclaim Ukraine, which had become an independent democratic state. Like Stalin in 1939, Putin assumed his massive use of force would result in meek capitulation.

However, the Ukrainians, like the Finns 83 years before, are resisting. Mr. Putin’s assumption that the rest of the world would respond fecklessly was wrong. The conquest of Ukraine in 2022 is turning out to be grievously expensive for the Russian Federation.

Russia has now had two brief periods of democratic government. The post-revolution regime under Alexander Kerensky lasted only a few months in 1917. The post-Soviet government begun by Boris Yeltsin in 1991 lasted only a few years. Long subject to autocratic rulers, the Russian people, torn by war and servitude for centuries, seem ready for truly democratic freedom if only given a durable opportunity.

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Mike Walker
Mike Walker
2 years ago

Apples and oranges.

PaulE
PaulE
2 years ago

The author writes “Russia has now had two brief periods of democratic government. The post-revolution regime under Alexander Kerensky lasted only a few months in 1917. The post-Soviet government begun by Boris Yeltsin in 1991 lasted only a few years. Long subject to autocratic rulers, the Russian people, torn by war and servitude for centuries, seem ready for truly democratic freedom if only given a durable opportunity.” The author seems to think opportunities are something that are given, instead of something that are either created or taken. No one hands out opportunities in life like neatly wrapped gifts. No one of going to hand the Russian people what he calls democratic freedom on a silver platter. That is something that the majority of Russian citizens have to truly want and be willing to fight for. To date, all evidence seems to indicate that when such windows of opportunity have presented themselves in the past, the vast majority of the Russian people have opted for the perceived “safety” (regimented existence of authoritarian rule) and familiarity of authoritarian rule each time.

Once again, another author that superimposes his own ideals and personal beliefs onto the people of another country. Thinking that all people around the world share our identical American principles and desires. News flash…they don’t, because they have grown up in cultures that have shaped them differently from us. What the author misses is that Russian culture, especially after several decades of brutal servitude to an oppressive State, has essentially smothered what little drive the people of Russia may have once had for self-determination and rule and replaced it with what amounts to an almost mindless fealty to the government born out of constant fear of reprisal from an authoritarian government. In simpler terms, the Russian people have been conditioned to be largely docile and compliant to the will of the government that rules over them. While there may be some very small, isolated pockets of free-thinkers and people seriously yearning for some semblance of self-determination, the Russian FSB seems to be quite efficient in rooting out and either jailing or disappearing those people.

herblady
herblady
2 years ago

AMAC is receiving Dark Money to support Convention of States, This will Destroy America. Amac is supporting the Globalist, the Great Reset, The One World Order. Shame on AMAC. We don’t have a Bad Constitution, we have bad people not following the constitution. Writing or re-Writing the Constitution does not correct this. Frankspeech/Lindelltv

Tim Toroian
Tim Toroian
2 years ago

The question is why didn’t the Russians learn something from the 1939 war with Finland? I learned from it.

Jay Hopkins
Jay Hopkins
2 years ago

Perhaps a small point, but Finland never fell. The Finns fought the Soviets to a stalemate and hostilities ended with a peace treaty in March 1940.

Richard Slate
Richard Slate
2 years ago

I have read the story about finland in 1939 years ago and it does remind me of what is happening in Ukraine right now. Putin like Stalin did in Finland thought he was going to get a quick victory in Ukraine. now his military forces are having allot of difficulty with Ukraines resistence

Bob
Bob
2 years ago

“Mister” (Mr.) is a title of honor and respect. We should stop referring to him as such and just call him Putin.

Bob M.
Bob M.
2 years ago

I hear Putin might be ill or dying. This might be his last hurrah. Ukraine is a sovereign county whose
borders are sacred. The world waited too long to pounce on Putin. The world should have threated
Putin immediate condemnation and actual military action from all directions.

Stephen Russell
Stephen Russell
2 years ago

Rerun WW2 here for Ukraine:

Battle of Berlin 1945
Stalingrad, 1942
Guerilla warfare, Europe
Poland, 1939
As models too

Veteran
Veteran
2 years ago

Something the author completely omitted from this article, while lauding the Russians for providing “the Allies with an important second front against Hitler” is the little fact that based upon the Hitler-Stalin Pact the day Hitler invaded Poland, Russia did the same from the East except it never faced international retribution for it, not when they murdered thousands of captured Polish officers and buried them in the forest at Katyn, nor for their genocide, and expulsion of German civilians at the end of the war from East Prussia, and Silesia, or for operating the concentration camp in Buchenwald for three more years after the war, filled with German farmers, and businessmen who didn’t want to surrender their property in the form of farms, and factories to communism. Communists are evil butchers, supporting them in any way, or form is evil too, making deals with the devil is unacceptable.

Pat Turner
Pat Turner
2 years ago

Putin is not Stalin, is attempting to uproot and get rid of US trained neo-Nazis, is exposing US financed bio-weapons labs, is shutting down child trafficking (and do your own research rather than listening to the 6 o’clock news! ) .. and asking for these violations of international law to be addressed! Also the enormous amount of ‘money laundering’ which the Ukraine provides a base for, is being exposed. And all this, because he was ASKED to get involved, to come to the rescue of Russian speaking population of Ukraine BECAUSE they’ve been (literally) underfire from the neo-Nazis (trying to eradicate them) for the PAST 8 YRS!
Vladamir Putin is wayyyyyyyyyy more righteous than anyone currently in our White House!

Helena Brus
Helena Brus
2 years ago

I am constantly amazed by the writers; this article had me captivated. No wonder Finland wants to join NATO.

Dee
Dee
2 years ago

I don’t think Putin is like Stalin when it comes to the ambition of expansionism. Remember, Crimea and Ukraine were once part of the Soviet Union.

Marilyn E Kaplan
Marilyn E Kaplan
2 years ago

I wonder that if Putin was in fact trying to destroy Ukraine, he is being stupid on invading where he is. I think, and I have some research from many different sources, that he simply is cleaning house. Biological labs attempting gain of function have no place on this planet and I am appalled that the US is supporting ANY of them. Hundreds around the world. And my tax dollars are being used to do just that. I have seen and verified reports of our involvement in it. The self-proclaimed Nazis in Ukraine have been increasing in number for years. Putin may not be ready for canonization, but he iS doing the world a favor cleaning up the vile pit that is Ukraine’s government. There are many reports of Ukraine’s forces doing unspeakable things to their own people and there are also many reports of kindness and support of Ukraine citizens bringing them the necessities of life their own government is withholding from them. Simply look at which sons and stepsons of politicians are involved in underhanded activities there. Old videos of Zelensky show that he is not presidential material…While I have struggled to word this better, I think most will understand the points that which I have written.

LUKE KNIGHT
LUKE KNIGHT
2 years ago

I saw ‘RED DAWN ” with Patrick Swayze today and it covered the invasion by Russia on the Western U.S.A and the Southern border by Cuba and others and I compared it to today with all of the Antifa riots, the crime and chaos of Los Angeles and other cities in the U.S.A.. The invasion has begun and the disruption and confusion off our cities are in full bloom. The local’s have refused the National Guard, Defund Police is rampant, Crime is wild and the criminals are celebrating. We simply do not have people willing to step up and kill those that harm the innocent.THE INVASION HAS BEGUN, WE JUST REFUSE TO SEE IT. BERNIE SANDERS, AOC OTHER SQUAD PERSONS, POLITICIANS ARE DIVVYING UP THE SPOILS.

Phillip Ridenour
Phillip Ridenour
2 years ago

I must disagree with the author’s assessment of the mood of the Russian people. They seem less than ready for a representative government. By all accounts they are so inured to the idea of a dictator that they are like the prisoner released after serving a 50 year sentence who either commits another crime to get sent back inside, or commits suicide. Judging by their calls for a “strong leader” like Stalin, they prefer to live under the boot of a dictator. Should Putin’s gambit fail, they’ll probably oust him (fatally) and then implode into anarchy.

Patricia McGuirt
Patricia McGuirt
2 years ago

This is scary. We as Americans need to open our eyes and ears to see what is happening to our “America”. We’ve taken God out of everything and wonder why we are hurting. Our fore fathers understood why it was important to have God in everything we do. We are very close to becoming a communist country if we do not take a stand now. It angers me that we are paying Biden $400,000 yearly to get in front of everyone and make a fool out of us before the whole world. Bring God back into our country to protect us from strong holes that want to become all powerful, “one world government”. God Bless America. We all need to pray that our God will protect us from greedy people.

Jay
Jay
2 years ago

There is a lot more to this story than what is stated. For instance Finland and Russia are technically still at war. There is only a Armistice in place. The article never talked about the winter war? The reason Russia pulled out of Finland is because they were being invaded by Germany. History is repeating itself.

STAN R STOWE
STAN R STOWE
2 years ago

The one true thought comes to mind, that those who have never experienced communism never fear it, and those that are under communism seem to fear it, but history if it was taught would alleviate this notion that socialism or any ISM is not profoundly brutal. TELL ME THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN NAZISM, COMMUNISM, SOCAILISM, AND YOU WILL REALIZE THAT IT ALL DEPENDENT ON DICTATORSHIPS WHOM RULE FROM TOP TO BOTTOM EVERY DAY LIFE. The 2020 election was a coup created by the communist within America, and now it is not hidden, but in plain sight for people to see what globalism is all about. All of this was brought about by a Communist Country that declared war on the world with the CCP-VIRUS, destroying many democratic nations in its wake. THE LOCK DOWNS WERE JUST THE BEGINNING, MASSIVE FORCED VACINES, MASK MANDATES, AND TOTAL CAPITULATION TO FEDERAL AUTHORITY OVER THE STATES AND CITIES. Americans (We) surrendered our freedoms at will, and all in the name of what is good for the people, and now the Socialist demoRAT party will do every thing in its power to maintain its subversion of liberty and freedom. IF IT WERE NOT FOR AN AMAZING DOCUMENT, THE CONSTITUTION, WE WOULD HAVE ALREADY SURRENEERED OUR REPUBLIC TO THE ELITE NOW IN OFFICE. How can we live with a country that allows capital murder to babies born, and massive murder to seniors during the crisis created globally by the communist of China. Pay attention people, see what is happening in Shanghai, and the brutal lock down and horrendous killing of people and pets, and you think it can not happen here? GOD GAVE US AN AMAZING BEAUTIFUL COUNTRY THAT WOULD NOT BE RULED BY ONE MAN, BUT A COLLECTIVE OF INDEPENDENT STATES AS A REPUBLIC. I seriously doubt that many kids graduating classes today understand the difference between democracy, and republic ! Our public schools have now become the center of dumbing down its citizens to conform to those leaders who want to end America as it is today from what it was designed to be a republic ! If they succeed to destroy the constitution, we will live by 2-3 states with the highest populations, and will be forced to live under one party rule.

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