1939 01 The Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact and a Recap of 20 Years of Conflict in Eastern Europe (including the Heimosodat)


Author: Not Decided
Status: In Research

Please post any ideas or research for this episode that you want to contribute in this topic. If the episode hasn’t been assigned to an author yet, you can note your intent to write in the string too, and we will contact you to discuss.

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I did some digging and holy shit, i found a good source in English written by a Finnish guy.

Here’s the link. It goes very in-depth by the way!

As for pictures, the Finnish National Archive is happy to help.



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And here’s a great video about the Estonian War of Independence in English made by a Estonian dude.


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I can help with the Heimosodat and finnish content in general, translating and fact checking using Jussi Niinistö’s book “Heimosotien historia 1918-1922” (2005)

Here’s a document in swedish (also swedish subtitles): https://areena.yle.fi/1-1047792

And a great picture of Vasili Levonen, AKA Ukki Väinämöinen, the ideological leader of the East Karelian uprising 1921-22


For one of the 1923 episodes I would recommend that you mention Klaipėda Revolt.

It happened when the Lithuanian government organised a revolt against the French occupation of the city which led to it being re-united with Lithuania.


I think I could try to cover that topic. For obvious reasons, I had to learn about it since my youngest days.


Ok, I’ll start with events leading to the signing of this pact.

I. I’ll start with the Munich agreement as it’s curse and outcome had a significant role in laying the foundation for the German-Soviet cooperation.

The foreign policy of Reich developed in a different way than Hitler wanted. From 1933 to 1939, Hitler was striving for a guarantee for open hand policy from London. These aspirations, however, failed. UK indeed have chosen the policy of appeasement as British government wanted to avoid military conflict, yet, that policy of appeasement did not mean a total indifference to Central and Eastern Europe.

With the eruption of the Sudeten crisis the Soviet Union itself proposed to call for the conference of power states. In the end, Soviet Union wasn’t invited to the meeting between the democratic and fascist states in Munich. Such turn of events had a significant impact on the Soviet foreign policy as the doctrine of collective security developed and advocated by Soviet Minister of Foreign Affairs Maksim Litvinov seemed to be impossible to implement. The Litvinov’s idea of collective security, in short, boils down to tightening relationships with Western democracies (France and Great Britain) and forging anti-German alliance.

March 10, 1939, during the meeting of the XVIII Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union in Moscow, Joseph Stalin made a speech that went down in history under a name “the chestnut speech”. During the Congress, Stalin, to the surprise of the gathered party members, he presented the Third Reich for better material for a friend and ally than Western democratic states. The leader of the Soviet Union at the same time criticized the Western capitalist states in his speech, which he accused of inciting war and attempts to draw the USSR into a conflict against the German Reich.

The name “chestnut speech” came directly from the words of Stalin, who stated that he would not allow the Soviet Union “to be dragged into conflicts by warmongers who were used to others pulling out chestnuts from the campfire for them” Stalin in his speech also claimed that the anti-Comintern pact wasn’t directed against the USSR, but against Western capitalist countries like England, France, and the USA.
“Chestnut speech” met with an enthusiastic reaction from Berlin and was a turning point in improving Germany’s relations with Soviet Russia immediately before the outbreak of World War

In May 3rd, 1939 Joseph Stalin dismissed Maksim Litwinow from the post of Minister of Foreign Affairs, and on the same day, he appointed Vyacheslav Molotov in his place. Molotov was one of the Joseph’s most trusted men and just like Stalin he too was in favor of working together with Germans. Stalin and Molotov did not intend to conclude agreements with Western democracies, and as consequence, take on the main burden of fighting against the Third Reich.

II. The Prague operation how it affected the foreign relations between IIIrd Rech, Poland, and Soviet Union.

The Plan to extend the occupation over the r whole territory of Czechoslovakia was followed by intensifying contacts with Warsaw. Poland received a proposition of alliance against the Soviet Union. For obvious reasons Soviets were concerned about this situation and were determined to prevent the Polish-German cooperation from happening.

In fact, it wasn’t completely new situation, Hitler, and politicians of IIIrd Reich were aiming towards tightening the relations with Poland for quite some time, which had to cause concerns among the Soviet leaders.

Some examples of German propaganda/satirical drawings:


German satirical political magazine “Kladderadatsch”. Caricature from December 10, 1933. The inscription at the top: “German-Polish pact of non-aggression”, bottom: “or Gallic pouring of bile”.


“Overcoming prejudices (part of the French press is still questioning good German-Polish relations).” Symbolizing Germany, Michel says to a Polish girl: “You see, Marinko, they do not mind even crowing a cock!” Kladderadatsch, July 28, 1935

Ok, back to the case:

III. The Pact

Thankfully for the Soviet Union, Polish Minister of Foreign Affairs, Józef Beck, was following the “balance” doctrine proposed by Józef Piłsudski. Assumptions of this doctrine were that Poland should not take any decisive actions against Germany and the USSR trying to simultaneously balance between both powerful neighbors. Its primary goal was to maintain equal relations with Berlin and Moscow, a kind of political balance while maintaining a safe “distance” from them.

Józef Beck was trying to delay the negotiations and to give a definitive answer. This undefined situation was retained until 31 March 1939 when British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain announced British unilateral guarantees to Poland. Following this, as well as Poland’s refusal to join Third Reich as (temporary or not, I won’t speculate about this here) ally Germany decides to push the issues of the exterritorial corridor to East Prussia and the Danzig question in order to lay a foundation for future casus belli against Poland.

All these events lead to the signing of the Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact. It was formally a non-aggression pact, however, the Secret Additional Protocol constituting an annex to the official document, it concerned the partition of territories or regulation of the independence of sovereign states: Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Finland, and Romania. In Polish literature, this document is often referred to as “The Fourth Partition of Poland”. British historian Norman Davies referred to it in a similar manner.

The main document is composed of seven articles:

Article I
Both High Contracting Parties obligate themselves to desist from any act of violence, any aggressive action, and any attack on each other, either individually or jointly with other Powers.

Article II
Should one of the High Contracting Parties become the object of belligerent action by a third Power, the other High Contracting Party shall in no manner lend its support to this third Power.

Article III
The Governments of the two High Contracting Parties shall in the future maintain continual contact with one another for the purpose of consultation in order to exchange information on problems affecting their common interests.

Article IV
Should disputes or conflicts arise between the High Contracting Parties, neither shall participate in any grouping of Powers whatsoever that is directly or indirectly aimed at the other party.

Article V
Should disputes or conflicts arise between the High Contracting Parties over problems of one kind or another, both parties shall settle these disputes or conflicts exclusively through friendly exchange of opinion or, if necessary, through the establishment of arbitration commissions.

Article VI
The present Treaty is concluded for a period of ten years, with the proviso that, in so far as one of the High Contracting Parties does not advance it one year prior to the expiration of this period, the validity of this Treaty shall automatically be extended for another five years.

Article VII
The present treaty shall be ratified within the shortest possible time. The ratifications shall be exchanged in Berlin. The Agreement shall enter into force as soon as it is signed.

As well as additional four articles of the Secret Additional Protocol:

Article I
In the event of a territorial and political rearrangement in the areas belonging to the Baltic States (Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania), the northern boundary of Lithuania shall represent the boundary of the spheres of influence of Germany and U.S.S.R. In this connection, the interest of Lithuania in the Vilna area is recognized by each party.

Article II
In the event of a territorial and political rearrangement of the areas belonging to the Polish state, the spheres of influence of Germany and the U.S.S.R. shall be bounded approximately by the line of the rivers Narev, Vistula and San.

The question of whether the interests of both parties make desirable the maintenance of an independent Polish state and how such a state should be bounded can only be definitely determined in the course of further political developments.

In any event, both governments will resolve this question by means of a friendly agreement.

Article III
With regard to Southeastern Europe, attention is called by the Soviet side to its interest in Bessarabia. The German side declares its complete political disinterest in these areas.

Article IV
This protocol shall be treated by both parties as strictly secret.

Uff, it took me way more time than I expected. It is way too detailed to fit into an episode but I trust you to fish out the most interesting stuff.

Poland Betrayed: The Nazi-Soviet Invasions of 1939 David G. Williamson
God’s Playground: A History of Poland vol. 2 Norman Davies
Między Berlinem a Moskwą. Stosunki niemiecko-sowieckie 1939–1941, Warszawa 2007 (Between Berlin and Moscow. German-Soviet relations 1939-1941, Warsaw 2007) Sławomir Dębski


@Veles I’m starting to feel a huge debt of gratitude to your broad range of contribution!


The thing is, I like doing this research. Well, and since I’m studying I have to do this kind of stuff anyway.




I’ll write a very condensed version of Niinistö’s book, in the same order (not entirely chronological) and I’ll include the maps from the book (though I don’t know if it’s legal, I’ll mark them the same way Niinistö has) so you can figure better where the arctic adventures took place.

Finnish border questions at the beginning of the independence.
The border of the autonomy
Finnish border demand at the Berlin negotiations 1918
Governmental borders
The area of the Isthmus demanded by the Russians
The East Karelian parishes occupied by Finland 1919-1920
The Petsamo area acquired by Finland in the Tarto treaty
Finnish border after Tarto treaty
The modern border of Finland.
Lappalainen 1985

The divisions of Karelia. Writing about White and Red Karelians in White Karelia gets a bit tricky. I imagine Belarusians have a similar problem discussing their history.

The Heimosodat (Kinship wars, kindred wars) were a series of Finnish armed expeditions into areas of the collapsing Russian Empire inhabited by Finnic ‘tribes’ (notably Karelians, Ingrians, Estonians) with the aim of removing them from Russian rule and either grant the areas independence or incorporate them into the newly independent Finland. The conflicts were a direct continuation of the Finnish civil war and were fought between Finnish white guard members and volunteers against red forces of many ethnicities, often Finnish, and the English intervention forces. During the civil war in general Mannerheim, the commander of the anti-communist White Guards, wrote his famous Order of the Day, in which he declared that he would not set his sword to the scabbard “until Lenin’s last soldier and hooligan is deported from Finland and White Karelia” ("… ennen kuin viimeinen Leninin soturi ja huligaani on karkoitettu niin hyvin Suomesta kuin Vienan Karjalastakin."). In some cases, as in the Estonian War of Independence, Finnish forces were under Estonian or White Russian command. Interestingly enough, the idea of a “Greater Finland” (with Eastern Karelia and Kola peninsula) was desired by both whites and reds, yet neither could achieve it for the reds failed in Finland and the whites failed in Karelia.

General map of the Heimosodat. Mattila 2001, original base map by Eero Kuussaari

Kronlund 1988

There were six Heimosodat in total:
21.3.1918 - 2.10.1918 The Viena Expeditions
27.4.1918 - 5.7.1918 and 23.1.1920 - 4.4.1920 The Petsamo Expeditions
30.8.1918 - 1.4.1919 The Estonian War of Independence
1.3.1919 - 12.2.1921 The Battle for Ingria
21.4.1919 - 1.8.1919 The Aunus Expedition
11.8.1920 - 20.2.1922 The Forest Guerrillas of Viena

The Viena Expeditions 1918

While the Civil war was still raging in the south, many of the reds had fleed to Viena (White Karelia, a geographical and not a political term) and threatened to flank the White forces driving towards Viipuri. To secure the back two expeditions were launched, jäger first lieutenant K. M. Wallenius with 500 men into north Viena and colonel lieutenant C. W. Malm with 370 men into southern Viena.
Malm crossed the border on 21. March and was welcomed by locals in Vuokkiniemi and Uhtua, facing no resistance until the attempted capture of Kemi, which failed miserably. The expedition returned to Uhtua, where the idealistic Finns were disappointed in the Karelians unwillingness to join the fight. The Karelians had already fought in the first world war and were becoming suspicious of the Finns, due to rumours of their co-operation with the hated Germans and began calling them “ruotsheiksi” (schwedes).

Overview of White (Viena) Karelia, the area of operation of Malm and Kuisma. Vahtola 1988, drawn by Irene Ryyppö.

Meanwhile the government attempted to negotiate with the Germans on the question of Eastern Karelia: in the summer of 1918 Berlin had other things on its mind and the Finns didn’t dare to act due to the German attitude. Malm was on his own.

The English Intervention forces had organized the Karelian Regiment. The Karelian veterans were given English training, clothing and weapons, not to speak of the English food supplies with which the interventionists bought much of the population to their side.
Malm had become ill and had to leave back to Finland, being replaced by jäger captain Toivo Kuisma. Kuisma brought along more volunteers and Prussian discipline, under which the men became a more serious fighting force. Still, the Karelians knew the terrain better and could ambush small patrols, taking no prisoners (except for one Finn who was brought all the way to England, returning to Finland later). The locals supported the Karelian Regiment as they were “our boys” and revealed Finnish positions to the soldiers.

The decisive battle of the expedition was fought at Vuokkiniemi. Kuisma’s force in the village and enemy machine guns in the north. Map by Jukka I. Mattila

With great bitterness Kuisma decided to retreat, being joined by only a handful of the Karelian White Guard the Finns had organized there. The Imperial English divide and conquer -strategy had won the fight.
As Kuisma prepared his troops to leave from Vuokkiniemi back to Finland, the last supplies arrived: winter coats, cigarettes and two machine guns, brought by one young Urho Kekkonen who would later become the Finnish president for 26 years during the cold war. But before they could leave, the Karelian Regiment begun their offensive. The village had been surrounded and the underpowered Finns couldn’t flee to the border, so they begun organizing a defence. After heavy fighting the Finns were victorious, but lost 10% of their men (20 in total). Kuisma gave his friend lieutenant Sairio a viking burial in Aijonlahti, sinking a boat with his body in full uniform. The retreating men were chased by Karelians in continuous rain, but finally crossed the border to Finland on 2. October and the expedition was disbanded in Kuopio in late October.

Jäger first lieutenant Wallenius was not a romantic: “The work must be done with bayonets to have a lasting result.” Wallenius crossed the border at Paanajärvi (now Ozero Panayarvi, Russia) on 28th March and proceeded to north Viena. The expedition encountered red forces along their path, earning some successess at Tuntsa but failing to capture Ruva. The reds noted that the white recruits were demoralized and inexperienced, spreading stories among the locals of maltreatment by white officers. The Ostrobothnian recruits rebelled openly, with a smith from Taivalkoski, Paavo Ylisirniö, revealing his chest and telling his lieutenant to shoot him, for he came to defend Finland and not to conquer Russia.

Wallenius’s operations in White Karelia were stunted by stubborn resistance. Vahtola 1988, drawn by Irene Ryyppö

Kuisma visited the headquarters to receive assistance to East Karelia, but general Mannerheim was more concerned with the Viipuri offensive than protecting a few conquered villages in the backwoods of Karelia. Also problematic were German and English attitudes to Finland: Germany didn’t want to assist Finns in East Karelia as it could be viewed a breach of the Brest-Litovsk treaty with Russia and the English saw Finland as a German vassal state threatening the Murmansk railway and Petrograd.

Speaking of the English, they had formed the Murmansk Legion out of red Finns in the north in anticipation of a German-Finnish offensive. Wallenius encountered ever more problems as the supply lines dried up, with meat being a rarity and even then riddled with maggots. The expedition was pulled to the border 2nd of May and begun patrolling the border. When the German general von der Goltz visited Salla, he marked the poor clothing and food situation.

The reds had planned to attack northern Finland, but the whites had prevented this. The whites had intended to conquer Viena, but the reds repelled them. Most of the Karelians were neutral - as one inhabitant of Oulanga remarked in April: “Which one is right. We are neutral. We don’t know. You say this, they say that. Which is right, we don’t know. Let us be hosted by Russia, England or Finland, as long as we are left in peace.”

The Petsamo Expeditions 1918 and 1920

Though Wallenius had at first envisioned a northern campaign reaching all the way to the Arctic and encompassing the whole Kola peninsula, the government rejected his plans due to the English presence on the White sea and the Artic sea. Instead the senate at Vaasa allowed an unofficial group to be sent to Petsamo, dubbed “the Doctors expedition”, led by PhD Renvall. Consisting of scientists, artists and local sami, the expedition had hardly any military experience though they were armed. The hundred men crossed the border at Nautsi on 27th April. Locals treated them suspiciously and the English mobilized their forces from the cruiser Cochrane, anchored in Petsamo. The Finns were easily defeated and some fleed back to Finland, while Renvall with his men attempted to stay in the area. Threatened by the British-Karelian-Finnish-Russian forces, Renvall was also running out of food and faced dire supply problems, the senate and the army wouldn’t be of any help and on top of all this, the Norwegian border guard treated the Finns with hostility, taking in total 18 Finns as prisoners. Finally in late June Renvall decided to retreat and the expedition was disbanded 5th of July in Virtaniemi.


In 1920 as the allied intervention force left northern Russia, it was time for a new attempt at Petsamo. This time headed by jäger major Wallenius, the Finns crossed the border on 28. January with 150 men. Wallenius advanced rapidly and disarmed the local red guards, taking control of the area. However, the men were too few to patrol the whole of Petsamo and the promised backup of 500 men were half a thousand kilometers away in Oulu. Wallenius was advised by foreign minister Holsti to retreat if facing overpowering enemy forces and avoid crossing over to Norway. On 22nd March two bolshevik ships arrived in the Petsamo fjord and Wallenius began his retreat in a blizzard. The march was physically hard and men got lost in the snowstorm, freezing to death, some got snowblinded. The bolsheviks, many former soldiers of the Murmansk Legion, caught up to the Finns on the 1st of April and forced them to fight at Salmijärvi, from where 29 Finns retreated into Norway, getting interned by the Norwegians. Wallenius and his men escaped along Paatsjoki to Finland, where the group was disbanded.

Bolshevik operations towards Salmijärvi in March 1920. In the north the Russian company, in the south the Fenno-Olonetsian company. Kuussaari 1939.

Though the armed attempts at conquering Petsamo failed, Finns got their arctic port in the Tarto treaty 1920, in exchange for the parishes of Repola and Porajärvi, which in 1918 had voted to join Finland and had been under Finnish administration for two years. This was seen by many as a “shame peace”, trading kindred peoples for an economically valuable port.

The Estonian War of Independence

Estonia declared its independence from Russia on 24th February 1918, but it was rather shortlived as the German Reichswehr occupied its capital, Tallinn, the very next day. The suppression of the national movement came to an end with the collapse of the German empire in November, but a new danger was approaching from the east: the bolsheviks invaded Estonia as the Germans retreated, beginning the red terror in Estonia and giving no time to organize defences.
The leader of the independent Estonia, Konstantin Päts, ordered mobilisation and sent out pleas of help to the world. The Red Army was only 30 kilometers away from Tallinn and defeat seemed inevitable, until the English sent twelve ships to Tallinn, bringing weapons and stopping attacks from the sea. The Scandinavian nations denied help, neutral as they were, but Finland decided to send aid. As the Finnish regent P. E. Svinhufvud told the government in session 25th November: “Friends must be helped.”

It was also in Finnish interests to repel a bolshevik state on the southern coast of the Gulf of Finland and the defence of Estonia was seen as defence of Finland. The Finnish government sent the Estonians 5000 rifles and organized 2000 volunteers, divided into two groups: one led by swedish-born Martin Ekström (who was by now sergeant in the Swedish army, captain in the Persian gendarmery, lieutenant in the German army, major in the Finnish army and soon would become colonel in the Estonian army) and the other led by estonian-born Hans Kalm (whose surname literally means “death” in finnish and estonian, captain in the Czars army, colonel in the Finnish and Estonian armies).

The 1st Finnish Volunteer Force (1 Suomalainen Vapaajoukko) arrived in Tallinn (their transportation secured by the English, who had warred the Karelians against the Finns the earlier summer and autumn) on 30th December 1918 and was received with enthusiasm by the Estonians. The Estonian paper Waba Maa wrote the following day in finnish: “The brothers from Finland, if our enemies say: Finis Finlandiae and Finis Estoniae, then we shall say: Long live Finland! Long live Estonia! We will triumph!” The Finnish forces were maybe even hosted too passionately, as most of the men were drunk by the evening, causing Ekström to write in his diary: “Fy fan!”

The Volunteer Force took part in the cleansing of Northern Estonia, proceeding eastwards and spreading their attacking spirit into the Estonians. When facing red Finnish forces, it seemed both to the communists and the whites that the Finnish civil war was continuing on Estonian soil. The Red forces had been on constant retreat since the first week of 1919 and from captured files could be found that the Reds vastly overestimated the Finnish forces and included sightings of Finns in places they had never been in.

On one occasion Ekström told lieutenant Varmavuori jokingly that if he could reach Rakvere the next morning before 7, he would be promoted. During the night the enemy retreated from the city and Varmavuori took control of the city with only 27 men, sending Ekström the laconic message: “We arrived in Rakvere today at 6 o’clock. Varmavuori, cavalry captain.”

The Volunteer Force landed at Udria on the 17th of January and headed the offense on Narva the next day. Though heavily outnumbered, the estonian-finnish offense was a success and the Finns began clearing the houses and executed 27 Finnish communists in front of the city hall. (Here Niinistö states that “it seems that it was close that war comissar Trotsky and estonian communist leader Aanvelt didn’t meet the same fate”, but doesn’t elaborate. I suppose they had just left the city prior to the invasion.)

The capture of Narva was compared to the warrior king Charles XII’s conquest of the same city in the year 1700. In both cases highly motivated attackers beat the numerically superior defenders, proving the power of ruthless aggression. On the opposing side, the disorderly and panic-infused retreat of the Red Army was criticized in the Krasnaja Gazeta article titled “The Shame of Narva”: “A futile offense and 200 white guards banished the many thousand numbered Red Army from Narva. — Sloth, laziness, lack of discipline - these are the reasons for the shameful defeat at Narva. — The shame of Narva must be washed away with the blood of our enemies. Narva must belong to us!”

Estonian commander Laidoner intended to push the eastern border further from Narva, some 25km to Jamburg, but Finnish general Wetzer refused Finnish forces being used outside Estonian borders. After Narva the 1st Finnish Volunteer Force didn’t take part in any bigger operations and was repatriated by the end of March. The pay was less than promised and arrived irregularly, which had lowered the moral towards the end.

Overview of the activities of Finnish volunteers in Estonia. Niinistö-Mattila 1999

Some of the officers of the Pohjan Pojat, colonel Kalm sitting in the middle in the front. The polar bear flag is prominent.

Colonel Hans Kalm was allowed by the government to recruit a thousand volunteers: he recruited 2 300. He named his force the Pohjan Pojat, Sons of the North, after the finnish war cry used in the 30-years war (Hakkaa päälle, pohjan poika! “Hack them down, son of the north!”) and the force would gain fame or notoriety, depending on your side, for their reckless fighting spirit and behaviour. He also invented the symbol of the regiment, a polar bears head on the flag of Finland. The Pohjan Pojat arrived in Tallinn on 12th January and were received by prime minister Päts, estonian colonel Laidoner, finnish general Wetzer and, perplexing to the Finns, white Russian forces.

Kalm requested that the Pojat be sent south, as the fighting in the north had eased after Narva. The Estonians had captured Tarto and Kalm was tasked with invading the city of Valk. On the road to Valk was the mansion of Paju (Luhde Großhof) which was defended by 500 elite Latvian Red Army riflemen, the Lenins Janissaries. Kalm allowed the Estonian battalion to attack the mansion at first lieutenant Kuperjanovs request, but their attempt failed with heavy casualties and Kuperjanov himself being killed in action.

Now it was time for the Pohjan Pojat: they attacked the manor from both sides and after fighting had lasted the day, the Finns finally reached the mansion itself. There the battle was decided with bayonets, riflebutts and fists. The Pojat emerged victorious and as no prisoners were to be taken, they executed 50 men, including two chinese mercenaries. Among the executed were 12 civilians, staff of the mansion, who had been hiding in the cellar. When the staff were revealed to be innocent, the Finns were ashamed and the atmosphere after the successful invasion was gloomy.

The Pohjan Pojat marched to Valk the following day, as the bolsheviks had pulled out of the city the previous night. The locals gathered to greet them and the Finns discovered that the city had been a subject to a harsh Red Terror, as they found mass graves full of tortured bodies of citizens, including women and old men.

After Valk the regiment was ordered to stay in reserve, but Kalm asked for a task “more suited to the regiments spirit”. Wetzer ordered Kalm to take control of the area of Koikylä (Koikküla) while the Estonians invaded the town of Marienburg, in northern Latvia. After carrying out this task, Kalm demanded to be allowed to take part in the offense on Marienburg and conflicted with Wetzer and other superiors. Without permission, supplies or knowledge of the enemy forces waiting for them, Kalm gave the order to proceed 80 kilometers to a potentially hostile nation without the possibility to protect their flanks. The first company refused to cross the Estonian border, but the rest of Pohjan Pojat followed Kalm and departed on 19. February on his risky endeavor.

A captured panzer car, with the addition of the polar bear in front of the car. Pohjan Pojat rode with style.

The Pojat arrived at Marienburg on the 20th and attacked on the 21st, facing heavy resistance, but emerging victorious. The Estonian forces arrived only a day later on panzer trains and relieved the Finns of control, and Pohjan Pojat returned to Valk by train on the 26th February. The marching in constant rain, both water and snow, and the fighting had took its toll on the men and when the Estonians retreated from Marienburg only a week later with miniscule casualties, the morale of the Finns was low. Much drinking took place and much of the anecdotes about Pohjan Pojat relate in one way or the other to alcohol. The relations with the locals were hostile, with the 16-year old Finn Juutilainen being abducted from the street and later beaten and executed.
Kalm on the other hand began planning the liberation of Ingria - and the conquest of Petrograd. The Red Army began an offensive in March in south-east Estonia and the Pohjan Pojat were sent to Petseri. It was trench warfare, constant fatigue with little to no results. The Pojat returned to Valk 29th of March, where Kalm offered them a continuation of their volunteer contract for the liberation of Ingria. Only a few hundred signed, the rest left north for Finland.

In Tallinn, the locals pretended not to see the now notorious Finns. This didn’t help the situation and during the evening the soldiers all got drunk, with many incidents following: two estonians were shot at, a finnish soldier chased a swedish officer with a knife and when commander Hannula was shooting around his hotel room the police attempted to arrest him, only for him to threaten to mobilise his battalion against the Estonians…
No one came to see the Finns off in the harbour. Kalm stayed with his few hundred men, but disbanded the Pohjan Pojat 29th May after he failed to realize his plans with Ingria. Some men returned to Finland, while others joined the Estonian army, some joined the Ingrian Volunteer Forces, some left to the Polish army, some to von der Goltz’s Baltic “Iron Division”, but most joined the upcoming expedition to Aunus (Olonets) Karelia.

So ended the Finnish volunteers Heimosota to Estonia, the only successful of the conflicts that took place. During January 1919 about one third of the Estonian army consisted of Finns, not to mention the aid in weapons and money. The aid came at the right time and had a great moral impact on the Estonians, some say that Finland prevented Estonia from collapsing under the Red Army.

The Aunus Expedition 1919

After the failures in White (Viena) Karelia, the hopes of Finnish activists were directed to Olonets (Aunus) Karelia, from where a steady stream of Karelian refugees was arriving into Finland with pleas of helping Karelians under Red rule. Russia was by now in a state of chaos: Estonia had successfully defeated the Red Army, in the south general Denikin and in the east general Kolchak were on the offense, supported by the Great Britain and France who at the same time planned moving the allied intervention forces southwards from Murmansk and Arkhangel. It seemed that Finland should take part in the fight against bolshevism, which would lead to the destruction of Soviet Russia and the incorporation of East Karelia into Finland.

The driving force behind the expedition to Aunus was the notable trio of jäger majors Gunnar von Hertzen and Paavo Talvela and the one-handed jäger captain Ragnar Nordström, who found that the young republic could not defend itself with the current borders. The “Border of Three Isthmuses” was favored, with the border pushed to the isthmuses of Karelia, Aunus and Viena. The government wasn’t too excited as weren’t the headquarters, with Mannerheims focus being on Petrograd, but a rebellion in a town in Olonets in late March persuaded the government to give permission and weapons for the expedition.
The Headquarters appointed jäger lieutenant colonel Ero Gadolin to lead the expedition, much to von Hertzens dismay, who quickly recruited 4500 men, most of whom were 16-20 years old with no war experience.

The beginning of the operations in Olonets Karelia. Vahtola 1997

The expedition was divided into three parts: a small group led by sergeant major Marttina to cut the Murmansk railroad on Syväri and the two main forces going north towards Petrozavodsk led by Talvela and south towards Lotinanpelto led by von Hertzen.
The expedition split at Salmi and the border was crossed by Marttina on the 18th and Talvela and von Hertzen on the 20th April. The southern forces advanced steadily through the villages of Vitele, Tuulos and Alavoinen towards the city of Aunus. Meanwhile a strike force comprised of southern Ostrobothnians, led by jäger sergeant major Isotalo, skied along the frozen lake Ladoga for 120 kilometers in 14 hours and struck the village of Pisi - behind Aunus. The now surrounded city was taken by von Hertzen without a fight on 23rd.
Marttina’s force failed to disrupt the railway between Petrozavodsk and Petrograd, which caused von Hertzen to stop his advance towards Lotinapelto. The conflict between von Hertzen and Gadolin culminated in Gadolin resigning and being replaced by jäger colonel Aarne Sihvo.

Since the railway was still functioning, the bolsheviks began mobilizing and organizing counterattacks, which led to the loss of Aunus on 4th May. The Finns retreated with heavy losses but the front stabilized at Alavoinen, where von Hertzens men could rest.

Talvelas northern force had begun their offense from Orusjärvi towards the strategically important village of Prääzä on 21st April. The attack steadily followed retreating Red forces and Prääzä was taken on the 29th. The reception by the locals was warm, with hundreds of olonetsians joining his forces. Talvela set up defensive positions some 40 kilometers from Petroskoi and attempted to contact the English forces operating north of lake Onega, as this time they had the same enemy: bolsheviks. Co-operation with the Finns didn’t interest the English, for their plans with the White Russians were to reinstate the “old, holy and indivisible Russia” and thus didn’t include a Greater Finland - or an independent Finland at all.

von Hertzen took Aunus back on the 7th May, but due to desertions caused by demoralization and dissatisfaction with von Hertzens methods of waging war he had to pull back from the city once again. Under constant harassment by the bolsheviks, the southern front was about to collapse completely, until reinforcements arrived and the front stopped at Tuulos.

Supply lines in Olonets ran with the help of the locals

In the Headquarters the Olonets expedition was seen as a supporting preoperation for the conquest of Petrograd. Sihvo was instructed that Petroskoi must be taken as soon as possible, before the English or the White Russians could take it. Thus all help should go to Talvela and von Hertzen should stay put at Tuulos.

This didn’t suit von Hertzen, who believed that Lotinapelto should be taken at any price, and led his regiment to a new attack against orders and an enemy twice as strong. The attack was successful in the beginning, but turned into a catastrophy on 27th June as the bolsheviks conducted an amphibious assault led by finnish Red officer Reino Rahja (one of the notorious Rahja brothers) at Vitele. von Hertzen didn’t have sufficient coastal cannons and the bolshevik ships could fire on the Finns without resistance. After the shelling the Reds landed en masse and the Finns retreated to Rajakontu and partly to Finland. Army forces were mobilized to the border but the government wouldn’t let them help the expedition in fear of a full scale war with Soviet Russia and the possible English reaction. Thus von Hertzen pulled all his forces back to Finland where his group was disbanded on 5th July.

The fronts before the landing at Vitele marked with spikes, after the landing with balls. Vahtola 1997

Talvela, who had reached the gates of Petroskoi, was suddenly under the threat of being flanked from the south and had to pull back to the lakes of Säämäjärvi and Munjärvi. As the summer progressed the depressed and weary Talvela was the only commander of the expedition whose resignation was denied and he was left with the cleanup, even after Sihvo had left in late July.
Officially the expedition was dissolved on 15th January 1920 and the very last men who had held out in Rajakontu were ordered to return to Finland on 11th November 1920.

Ski troops “there somewhere” in Olonets Karelia

The Olonets expedition was the biggest and the most well known of the Heimosodat. It was a private enterprise, begun by the jäger and activist circles interested in the Eastern Karelian question, and it was conducted by volunteer forces with the governments funding and responsibility. The failure was due to insufficient forces, who were insufficiently trained and insufficiently equipped. The next time von Hertzen and Nordström would visit Olonets would be in 1941-1944.

Volunteers in Olonets, presumably before the demoralization


The Battle for Ingria 1919-1920

Ingria has historically been bordered by the river Narva in the west, to the Karelian isthmus in the north and the lake Ladoga and Lavajoki in the east. The population of Ingria consisted of 140 000 lutheran Ingrians (Inkeriläinen), who were descendants of Finns who moved to Ingria in waves after the Teaty of Stolbovo in 1617, and some 10 000 orthodox Izhorians (Inkerikko), who were the native Finnic population of the area.

During the Russian revolutions there was nationalist movement among the Ingrians, with some advocating union with Finland. When the bolsheviks came to power, these plans came to a halt and nationalist activism was suppressed. Instead Ingrians began to flee to Finland, where the stories of life under communism generated much sympathy but little action - as Mannerheim said to an Ingrian delegation, “It’s a pity, poor Ingrians”. The source of Finnish reluctance towards Ingria was the metropolis of Petrograd, planted in the middle of Ingria in 1703.
The Ingrians turned towards the Estonians, who were fighting for their independence against Soviet Russia. An agreement was reached; an Ingrian regiment would be formed into the Estonian army for use on the front in Western Ingria.

The Ingrian Regiment was formed from Ingrian volunteers from Finland and begun their fight with a successful landing at the mouth of Luga (Laukaanjoki) in May 1919, but suffered a near-crushing defeat at Kaprio. The regiment received reinforcements from the now disbanded Pohjan Pojat and continued along the coast to the fortress of Yhinmäki (Krasnaja Gorka), which to their surprise surrendered without a fight due to the fortress’s antibolshevistik troops. However, the regiment could not defend the fortress against cannon fire from Kronstadt and bolshevik ships and had to abandon it.

Ingrian offences in the summer and the autumn 1919. In the small picture the Republic of Kirjasalo. Kuussaari 1957

At the same time the relations between the White Russians who were fighting along the Estonians and the Ingrians were souring. The Finnish officers and Ingrian men didn’t want to be bossed by “russkies” and White Russian general Rodzyanko, who was in command of the Ingrians, abhorred the idea of an independent Ingria. Eventually Rodzyanko attempted to have the Finnish officers imprisoned to avenge the personal offenses he and Russians generally had suffered from the Pohjan Pojat in Estonia, leading to the Ingrians and Estonians severing their ties with Rodzyanko. The White Russian offense towards Petrograd continued, but soon fizzled down before reaching the city.

Ingrian-born Pohjan Poika, captain Emil Pekkanen took control of the regiment and begun a new attempt of Ingrian liberation in late July. They again proceeded steadily through Ingria, taking part in a new White Russian offense on Petrograd, as the Regional Government of Northwest Russia was pressured by the English to accept Estonian independence and promise Ingrian autonomy. General Yudenich attempted to get Finland in on the attack, but as there was no clear acceptance of Finlands independence, the Finnish government declined to participate.
Yudenich’s forces were already entering Petrograd from the south and Lenin suggested that the city be evacuated, when war komissar Trotsky organized a successful counterattack and drove the north-western army and its allies to Estonia, where the Russians were disarmed by the Estonian army. The Ingrian regiment patrolled the border at Narva until it was disbanded in June 1920.

Refugees from Northern Ingria, bordering Finland on the Karelian Isthmus, began organizing themselves to fight against bolshevism in July 1919, aiming to create an autonomous Ingria in a Greater Finnish federation of Finland, Karelia, Estonia and Ingria. The Finnish government gave them weapons and many activists gave them military training, with the peculiar adventurer lieutenant colonel Georg (Yrjö) Elfvengren taking charge of the group, naming them the 1st Battalion of the 1st Regiment of North Ingria. A few days after he arrived, 26th of July, he gave the order to invade North Ingria. There is speculation that Elfvengren, along the sentiments of some activists, wanted to provoke a war between Finland and Soviet Russia and weaken the standing of president Ståhlberg, but succeeded in neither. As the offense was against the Finnish governments wishes, the border was closed behind Elfvengren and aid to the Ingrians was forbidden.

Elfvengren proceeded some 15 kilometers into Russia, but after facing stiff resistance, retreated into the border village of Kirjasalo, which had declared itself an independent republic and was patrolled by Finnish border guard until the Treaty of Tarto. Elfvengren was fired from his position on 30th June and was replaced by former Pohjan Poika, lieutenant Elja Kihtniemi. Kihtniemi organized defences at Kirjasalo and planned the conquest of the rest of Northern Ingria.
In October, however, Elfvengren returned as commander of the regiment. He had made a secret pact with the White Russian general Yudenich of participation in the offense on Petrograd in exchange for a notable sum of money. With these “Yudenich’s millions” Elfvengren paid the Ingrians salary and bought them new equipment and clothing. While co-operation with the Russians wasn’t pleasant for many Ingrians, they accepted the help they received.

The Nothern Ingrian forces’ operation in the summer and the autumn 1919. Nevalainen 1996

On 21st October Elfvengren launched his new attack, which was practically a repeat of his earlier attempt. After four days of offense, Elfvengren had to pull back to Kirjasalo as the Ingrians ran out of ammunition and faced strong bolshevik resistance. The biggest effect Elfvengrens attempts had was a series of vengeful attacks by the bolsheviks on the Ingrian civilians, creating a steady stream of Ingrian refugees fleeing into Finland. The bolsheviks burned abandoned houses and villages down. “It would be time to get him (Elfvengren) the hell out from scheming on the Finnish kins business”, commented jäger colonel Eero Heickell.
In February 1920 the regiment was integrated into the Finnish border guard and begun to receive salary from the state, with Elfvengren being fired in the process.

The dreams of Ingrian liberation were forgotten and in the Treaty of Tarto 1920 Finland handed the Republic of Kirjasalo to Soviet Russia, who promised to give the Ingrian people cultural autonomy. This promise was followed by the destruction of the village of Kirjasalo and repression, persecution, deportations and eventually mass murder during the Purges. After the Second World War Ingria was practically empty of Ingrians, as the Finns evacuated and received as refugees some 60 000 Ingrians while retreating and the Russians sent the 30 000 left under Soviet control to Siberia. Eventually Finland would be pressured to return 55 000 Ingrian refugees back to the USSR, where they weren’t allowed to settle in Ingria and many were executed. In 1989 only 16 000 Ingrians lived in Leningrad Oblast (Ingria) and after the dissolution of the USSR the Finnish president Mauno Koivisto decreed that Ingrians would be treated in Finland as returnees from all around the former USSR, which led further depopulation of Ingrians in Ingria. Some have criticized this strongly and have suggested that Koivisto may have been co-operating with Russian intelligence to rid of non-ethnic Russians from Leningrad Oblast.
“What have you done, Ingrian, to be treated like this?”, I could not find the source for who wrote this saying but it is a fitting phrase to end the Ingrian chapter.

Ingrian refugees during the Second World War

The Karelian Uprising 1921-1922

When the tides of the Russian Civil War were turning in late 1919, the English begun evacuating their men from the north and in 1920 the White Russian forces led by general Skobeltsin began retreating from Murmansk towards Finland, followed by hordes of Red army soldiers. The Finns disarmed the Russians, though in some cases took control of the forces and used the experienced troops to defend the border from the hostile bolsheviks. The Soviets didn’t push with full force though, as they were fighting the Poles in the south and didn’t want to cause Fenno-Polish co-operation, which was a real possibility at the time.
The Finns and Soviets attempted to negotiate an armistice, but the Russians wouldn’t accept Finnish interests in Eastern Karelia. A renegotiation was called when the Poles took control of Kiev in April and White general Wrangel’s forces threatened the bolshevik state in the south.

The Treaty of Tarto between Soviet Russia and Finland concerned mainly the location of the Finnish eastern border. Everyone in Finland wanted the ice-free port of Petsamo, but the Karelian question divided the politicians. The bourgoisie wanted the strategically important border of the three isthmuses and to end the division of Karelia begun with the Peace of Stolbova, but the socialists found that Finland had enough to deal with in its current borders. Paasikivi managed a third way between the “Greater Finland” or “Stolbova Finland” objectives: there should be a vote in East Karelia, as the Soviets had agreed with the principle of the self-determination of the nations.
After some turns in the Polish-Soviet war and some secret scheming by social democrat Väinö Tanner, Petsamo was exchanged for the Finnish-occupied areas of Kirjasalo, Repola and Porajärvi. The self-determance vote was made empty by the just set up Karelian Workers Commune, which the bolsheviks said represented the Karelians will. The peace was a win for the Soviets and many in Finland were outraged by the cessation of the newly acquired Karelian territories and the people of the areas felt betrayed. Especially amongst the activists and kindred warriors the treaty was known as a “Shame Peace”.

After the English left Karelia a power void was formed. The anti-finnish stance of the former Karelian Regiment gradually faded and the men set up a White Karelian (Vienan Karjala, not a political term) Temporary Government in Uhtua. In April 1920 its 117 representatives voted to separate from Russia, banish Russian troops from its territory and vote of the mode of its state. The government was renamed the Karelian Temporary Government after municipalities from Olonets Karelia joined. The bolsheviks didn’t find that the Karelian government represented the will of the Karelians as well as their Karelian commune and soon begun military action against them. Resistance against the Red army was futile and the Karelian government was exiled into Finland, where calls to aid the Karelians grew stronger.

Karelian men gathered at Uhtua to vote about separation from Soviet Russia in March-April 1920

In Repola, soon after the peace treaty, a plan known as the “Bear’s Den” or “Bear’s Nest” plan was formed by chief of police of Repola, Bobi Sivén. Sivén declared that Finland can refuse Repola but it cannot force Repola to join Soviet Russia, practically declaring Repola independent. Sivén, in co-operation with kindred warriors and activists, begun gathering guns and men for a war to liberate the whole of Eastern Karelia from Soviet terror. Learning from the former failures, the plan was to sell timber from Repola to Finland, with the workers being volunteer soldiers and Karelian refugees, thus securing men, funding and a cover for the real purpose: Karelian nationalist revolution.

The Finnish headquarters were not enthusiastic about yet another plan to liberate East Karelia; the Government even less. When the government received a question from Moscow about Repola, it demanded a written explanation from Sivén. Sivén admitted that weapons had been transported to Repola and resigned from his post to avoid an international conflict and shot himself in protest on 12. January 1921 causing the Bear’s Den plan to be abandoned.

In hindsight the timing for the Bear’s Den would’ve been ideal for it would have occurred at the time of the Kronstadt rebellion and there were little to no bolshevik troops in Karelia at the moment. The Soviets occupied Repola and Porajärvi during the spring and drove the locals to Finland according to the peace treaty.

Many Karelians who had stood against Soviet rule had gone into hideaways in forests and swamp areas, as had been the finnic practice for centuries when new rulers asserted power over the population, but those who had fled to Finland were ready to take action to return to their homes and with Finnish activists begun to organize underground action to stir up Karelian resistance. The rebel peasants called themselves metsäsissit, the Forest Guerrillas.

The Forest Guerrillas held a council in October 1921 in Koivuniemi and decided to separate Karelia from Soviet Russia. Vaseli Levonen, a former merchant from Tunkua, was chosen as the movements spiritual leader under the alias Ukki Väinämöinen, the mythical Finnish hero who promised to come back when he was needed. Corporal Jalmari Takkinen, a friend of Sivén and the last Finn who had left Repola, became the military leader under the alias Ilmarinen, the Finnish god of craftmakers and blacksmiths. Takkinen only promised to lead the Forest Guerrilla Regiment until more proficient officers would arrive from Finland; he was the only Finn in the group.

The areas held by the Viena Regiment (VR), the Forest Guerrilla Regiment (MSR) and the Repola Battalion (RP).

Soon other Karelian resistance movements began to emerge: in Northern White Karelia appeared the Viena Regiment (White Karelia Regiment) and in Northern Olonets the Repola Battalion. Unlike any previous Heimosota, now the initiative was Karelian and the fighters were wholly Karelian, but supplies were insufficient. The Karelians were armed with guns from the Bear’s Den and wore varied clothing, many had their English uniforms from their times in the Karelian Regiment.

The uprising begun in late October with the power of hatred and without much thought for the consequences: all communists and soviet personnel caught were shot, even those celebrating the fourth anniversary of the revolution in Rukajärvi.
The Viena Regiment proceeded from Oulanka towards the Louhi station on the Murmansk Railroad in the north, the Forest Guerrillas from Tunkua towards Sorokka in the middle and the Repola Battalion captured the village of Porajärvi on Christmas Eve. By the end of 1921 the Karelians had conquered most of the White and Olonets Karelia according to the Bear’s Den Plan and with few casualties. Now the rebels controlled an area of 60 000 square meters and seriously threatened the Murmansk Railroad, they were at home and felt confident.


Though Finland didn’t support the uprising officially, there was a threat of escalation. As the Red army concentrated troops on the Karelian Isthmus, Helsinki seriously pondered mobilisation. The Red Army on the Karelian front included now six regiments (some 20 000 men), artillery, machine guns and aeroplanes (though which were useless due to freezing temperatures) against the 3 000 Karelians. Trotsky advocated opening a Finnish front in addition to the one against the “White Karelian bandits” (now the term is the political one, not the geographical) and Lenin declared that the Soviet love of peace could be stretched only so thin. Few border skirmishes occurred, including one where a Red Army group attacked Megrijärvi near Ilomantsi on 6th January 1922, but president Ståhlberg navigated his way to avoid a conflict and transferred the matter to the League of Nations, where it disappeared into paperwork.

The uprising didn’t go unnoticed internationally and many set up charities for the Karelians. The kindred activists and warriors heard the call of duty: volunteers arrived from Finland, Estonia and Sweden. Often they were veterans of the former Heimosodat and the Karelian Uprising seemed like a final come-together of the many colourful character of the whole of the Heimosodat. There was jäger major Talvela, who now took strategic command of the rebels and spent his holidays from the Finnish army fighting in Karelia, second lieutenant Marttina, who again set out to cut the Murmansk Railroad and again failed, second lieutenant Dahlman, who fought in all of the Heimosodat except for Petsamo and who would die on this last of the kindred wars, corporal Vänttinen, who had fought in the Finnish Civil War, Kuisma’s expedition in White Karelia, Ekström’s regiment in Estonia, Ingrian Volunteer Force, only then completed his conscription and again parted for Karelia, jäger lieutenant Hannula of the Pohjan Pojat, who wished that he would end up rotting in the Karelian wilderness, and finally the legendary jäger sergeant major Isotalo, who exceptionally travelled alone without his trusty Ostrobothnians for he believed this to be a one-way trip doomed to fail. Jäger major von Hertzen also visited the Karelians to assess the situation, finding the uprising futile.

The Karelians were spread thin on their vast land and on 20. January some one hundred Red Finnish ski troops led by Red officer Toivo Antikainen captured the town of Kiimasjärvi deep inside the Karelian territory. The rebels position was greatly weakened and the failure to cut the Murmansk Railroad provided the bolsheviks with a steady supply of men and weapons. First the southern front cracked, with heavy losses at Porajärvi and Repola, and the Forest Guerrillas were broken by the beginning of February. The Karelians retreated north, plagued by hunger, cold and a strong enemy. Demoralized by the overwhelming manpower of the bolsheviks and the sudden loss of all the territory they had conquered, the troops began deserting. Talvela responded by placing death penalty to those guilty of such crimes as refusal to fight or desertion.

The Red Army operations to suppress the uprising. Lackman 1993

The result of the battle was by now clear to everyone, but the Karelians attempted to prolong the fight as long as they could. At the same time an incident known as the the Pork Mutiny occurred in Salla in Northern Finland, where a group of Red Finns crossed the border, disarmed a company of Finnish border guards and agitated a revolt at a local logging yard after arresting the heads of yard and confiscating the cashbox. Their leader Frans Myyryläinen held a speech on a crate used to transport pork and held a speech, after which some 240 men joined him and left for the Soviet Union. This was a Soviet response to the Karelian uprising, instigated by Eino Rahja, and successfully disrupted the Karelians flank in the north.

“Finnish-Russian relations in light of the recent uprisings.” In the the first three pictures a Finn steps over the border to East Karelia, a Russian protests and a Finn holds up a note saying “We are angels of peace”. In the next the reverse happens, with a Russian stepping over the border to Kuolajärvi. 9/1922 Kurikka, a socialist paper.

The long awaited help from Finland didn’t materialize (one might have noticed a pattern by now). This was not altered by the murder of interior minister Heikki Ritavuori, who was shot at his home door on 14. February 1922 by activist Ernst Tandefelt. Ritavuori had denied the transportation of volunteers, guns and food supplies over the border to the Karelian rebels, which was viewed as communist sympathising and treachorous activity against a kindred nation by activists and right wing circles. It is the only political assassination during Finnish independence.

The last organized resistance was the northern Viena Regiment, which had slowly retreated towards Tiirovaara near the Finnish border, but they also decided to follow the other rebels over to Finland and crossed the border in good order on 16. February 1922 at 13.00 PM.
As a result of the uprising thousands of Karelian refugees fled to Finland. Karelian casualties were 50 dead, 150 wounded and 500 frostbitten, while Soviet casualties were 352 dead and MIA and 1042 wounded.

The Karelian uprising was spontane and unlike in Olonets 1919, the fighting force consisted of mainly Karelians. It had its roots in Bobi Sivén’s actions, but the young Jalmari Takkinen was there when it happened. The Karelians had expected to receive help from Finland, as they found that Soviet Russia had already violated its part of the Treaty of Tarto in many ways. Finland officially made the Karelian question an international subject, though the gesture proved futile. International interest in the Karelians waned as the rebels lost their ground in the face of the Red Army.


Kindred warriors (heimosoturit) during the Olonets Expedition.

The Finnish participation in Karelian, Estonian and Ingrian conflicts in 1918-1922 known collectively as the Heimosodat had come to an end in disillusionment and defeat. It was not all in vain though: the time produced two independent republics of Finland and Estonia and an autonomous soviet socialist republic of Karelia, though it was a subject to the Soviet Union and autonomous in name only. The idea of a Greater Finland would be revived during the Second World War and a new, much more massive and organized attempt to join Eastern Karelia to Finland would be made by the Finnish state during the Continuation War (1941-1944). Many of the same people who had fought in Karelia during the Heimosodat would find themselves in familiar terrain and places, most notably later Knight of the Mannerheim Cross and General of the Infantry Paavo Talvela.

A diploma given by the Finnish Kindred Warrior Union in the 30’s to the relatives of those who perished during the expeditions.

The Academic Karelia Society holding ceremony in remembrance of the Heimosodat in Ruttopuisto, Helsinki 1936.

Source: Heimosotien historia 1918-1922 by Jussi Niinistö (who by the way happens to be the current defence minister)

Ranks with the prefix “jäger” mean that the person in question was a veteran of the 27th Jäger Battalion, trained at Lockstedter Lager where some of you guys visited.
If there are any questions about names or locations, as many places have different names due to time and language, I’ll be happy to help. Also I noticed that I have not written all the numbers of men and casualties and dates etc., but I can look up any numbers if needed. I’m mostly in it for the stories :smiley:


I would add that it is very difficult to estimate the number of Finns who took part to the Heimosodat. What i mean by this is that the phases of the Heimosodat did not occur simultaneously and many activists took part into several of the different operations (or expeditions). So just adding the number of participants together doesn’t really work. The reality simply is that there is no way to tell accurately the number - it is somewhere between 5 000 and 9 000 men.

Other aspect is that there exist a number of biographies and memoirs of the die hard activists - like that of Jaeger Colonel Ragnar Nordström (worth noting that all those Finnish soldiers who had served in the 27th Jaegers carried prefix ‘jääkäri’ or ‘jaeger’ to their rank) who was a veteran of the 27th Jaegers. His memoir lists what would be in modern era understood as hostile expeditions or raids into Soviet Russia during his time as commander of Finnish border guards in a certain region of Ladoga Karelia. He also describes rather eloquently the means and deceptions used by the activists to get Finland involved in some of the expeditions and the open disappointment of the activists when official Finland refused to be involved after their plot had been exposed.

Book referred to: Ragnar Nordström: Victory or death (Voitto tai kuolema) - https://www.amazon.com/Voitto-tai-kuolema-Jääkärieverstin-perintö/dp/9510212504