Book Review: Finland at War: The Continuation and Lapland Wars 1941–45

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by Vesa Nenye, Peter Munter, Toni Wirtanen, & Chris Birks

Oxford: Osprey Publishing, 2016. Pp. 336. Illus., maps, chron., biblio., index. $40.00. ISBN: 1472815262

Finland in the Russo-German War

In this work, the authors of the earlier, Finland at War: The Winter War 1939–40, are joined by a fourth colleague to complete the military history of modern Finland, concentrating on Finland’s role in the Russo-German war, during which the Finns went from a quasi-ally of the Germans to an enemy. The book essentially follows the pattern established in the earlier work.

After a short look at how and why Finland came to join the German invasion of Russia, with the limited objective of recovering territories lost in the Winter War, the authors proceed to cover military operations during 1941-1945. Given that, in contrast with the earlier war, which lasted little more than four months, this war lasted nearly four years, authors give us somewhat less detail on operations, but in contrast to the earlier work, provide more coverage of naval and amphibious operations. As in their earlier work, the authors provide many useful maps and sidebars.

While the “Winter War” saw almost continuous intensive fighting, the new war with the Soviets that commenced in 1941 saw a brief period of heavy fighting as the Finns overran their lost territories, which actually put them in a position to have assisted in the capture of Leningrad. But the Finns then ceased offensive operations, and there followed about two years of relatively low level fighting – rather like a World War I “quiet sector”– which suited both the Finns, lacking the resources and ambition for further advances, and the Soviets, who were desperately occupied elsewhere.

This limited war ended in mid-1944, when the Soviets, having put the Germans on the run, on the Leningrad front and elsewhere, unleashed a series of massive offensives. The Finns were forced to an armistice in about three months, a campaign which takes up nearly half the book.

The authors follow up the Russo-Finnish armistice with an account of the “Lapland War”. Little known outside Finland, after the armistice with the Soviets, the Finns expelled the Germans from their country.

The authors end the book with a look at the peace terms, which were comparatively light, since the Finns had not adopted German genocidal racial policies, refrained from supporting the German capture of Leningrad, and apparently also because Stalin admired their resilience, which the authors don’t mention.

As with the earlier volume, Finland at War: The Continuation War and Lapland Wars, 1941-45 is a very worthwhile read for anyone with an interest in military history.

 

Note: Finland at War: The Continuation War and Lapland Wars, 1941-45, is also available in paperback and e-editions

 

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Reviewer: A. A. Nofi, Review Editor   


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