Book Review: Finland at War: The Winter War 1939–40


by Vesa Nenye, Peter Munter, & Toni Wirtanen

Oxford: Osprey Publishing, 2015. pp. 304. Illus., maps, chron., appends., biblio., index. $34.95. ISBN: 9781472806314

The Finno-Soviet “Winter War”

This is first of a two volume military history of modern Finland. The authors, former Finnish servicemen as well as scholars, open with a chapter offering some background on the early history of Finland, through its independence from Russia in the aftermath of World War I and the civil war that followed. They follow this with an account of the development of Finland and its armed forces in the interwar period and another on the coming of war with the Soviet Union in the aftermath of the Nazi-Soviet Pact.

The authors then cover the events of the 105-day long “Winter War” in eight chapters, offering remarkable detail, touching strategy, diplomacy, operations, weaponry, tactics, and weaponry. The account is supplemented with many profiles of individual officers and and even common soldiers from both sides and with numerous illustrations and maps.

Each chapter concentrates on events on one of four principal front, all within a chronological framework. The narrative cuts back and forth between the fronts as operations unfolded.  One chapter looks at the international response to the war, with some interesting surprises, such as Fascist Italy’s support for the Finns.

Of course, while the greatly outnumbered Finns gained a series of stunning victories over the invaders, they ultimately had to concede defeat in the face of overwhelming numbers in March of 1940.

The authors conclude with an overview of the peace that followed, through June of 1941, when Finland joined Germany’s invasion of Russia, a matter covered in the follow up volume.

Finland at War: The Winter War, 1939-40 is the most detailed account of the war this reviewer has ever seen, and it is well worth a read by anyone with an interest in warfare.


Note: Finland at War: The Winter War, 1939-40 is also available in paperback and several e-editions.


Reviewer: A. A. Nofi, Review Editor   

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