Marshal of Finland Mannerheim and Murmansk railroad

Mannerheim made two very important decisions during the continuation war. To not take part on the siege of Leningrad and to forbid large scale effort on preventing soviets from using Murmansk railroad. The reason for the first one was that he did not want to take part on starving four million Russians. What was the reason to allow lend lease through Murmansk railroad to eastern front? Finnish high command had plans prepared for the required operations.


Both questions are complicated. From what I gather: Finland and Mannerheim’s army was an army of limited resources and capabilities. Now, for the continuation war: The Finnish Army’s plan and the thought was that the Army, of roughly 400000 men would take back the old borders(Karjala isthmus, Ladoga Karelia), but advance past these borders, especially in East Karelia, capturing the City of Petrozavodsk and establishing forward defencive lines on the Svir river(Syväri).(Petrozavodsk also had a Soviet Airbase, which stationed bombers attacking towards Mikkeli(Army HQ) and other Finnish cities.)
The second goal was of course to get and conquer the borders of “Greater Finland”, but this is disputed. In the Finnish army’s plan was hoping and had planned so that Germany would take care of nearly all fighting south of the Svir and Leningrad, and eventually that the Germans and Finns would have a “Tapaaminen Syvärillä”, Handshake/Meeting at the Svir river, so that German forces would cut off Lake Ladoga by attacking south of the Svir(Which they tried to do, but by november had only reached the town of Tihvin, some 150km south of the Svir river start and the terrain was heavy forests & poor roads. Not to mention that Soviet forces counter attacked and retook the town by December.
Joint US and British diplomatic pressure resulted in or at least partly to the halting of the operations in White Karelia(Vienankarjala), which was the area south of the Kola Peninsula and Murmansk to East Karelia, which halted Finnish attacks. The official reasoning in September-October was to “Start preparing better defensive lines”, but it is unclear.
However, the Finnish army wasn’t quite capable of a full on front action, since in July-August the Soviet army was more busy with the massive frontline from the Baltics to the Black sea and had not nearly enough forces in the area between murmansk and Svir to better prepare a defence, but this changed by october-november, when better trained forces from the Far Eastern front, on the Manchurian border were transferred to the Leningrad front and Karelian front, since the soviets had signed the non aggression treaty with japan and had gained vast intel, that the japanese army wasn’t going to attack them, but rather attack towards the south.
After October it would’ve been unlikely that Finnish forces would’ve attacked anywhere from the Svir to Salla, since the terrain was horrendous, similar to the winter war and the days were getting shorter by light and such. Finnish army had to demobilise 80000 men already by December, due to massive factory shortages and manpower shortages in the working population and other stuff.
I know this answer seems messy, but there were a myriad of factors as to why the finns never advanced beyond the svir or towards leningrad. Some say that mannerheim, after travelling and exploring the siberian and central asian steppes, already knew that crippling the USSR completely was almost impossible or that they actually weren’t capable of such actions anymore after the winter had onset, since the Soviet numbers greatly matched theirs and the terrain wasn’t all that good to British-US diplomatic pressure or general reluctance due to either not wanting to attack towards the railway and such.


Edits: The official reason as to why the Finnish army did not partake in further offensives, other than minor skirmishes on the Svir in the winter of 1941-1942 was that the Finnish casualties by that point were already too high and a lack of Finnish military resources. (Minor skirmishes at the Svir were battles on the southern side of the Svir river in the winter of 1941-1942, in which the red army tried to regain ground and establish a foothold on the other side of the svir river for possible future offensives, as well as crack the finnish defensive line of rivers, lakes and forests on the svir.

Mannerheim’s reluctance to take part in the Leningrad attack could have or was partly influenced by his already seen thought, that the axis forces weren’t strong enough to defeat the USSR and that by attacking the city now and possibly failing, later a retaliation could be possible.


To be clear the Finnish forces did take part in encircling the Leningrad but did not actively take part to the actual siege - in fact indiscriminate use of artillery or bombers against Leningrad was prohibited. That being said Finns did occasionally shell specific targets near their front lines (coastal forts near Kronstadt, ammo dumps, etc.) but not the city itself.

As to lend-lease… The Chronology of the Continuation War (Jatkosota Kronikka, 1991, in Finnish) gives on p. 66 (on date 15.-19.11. in section ‘Hyökkäys Louhen suuntaan päättyy’ ~ ‘offensive towards Loukhi ends’) following points (translated & paraphrased, some irrelevant parts omitted).

The President of Finland had on 5.11. send a letter to Mannerheim where he underlined the political implications of continuing the offensive. Despite of severing relations already earlier the UK had maintained political pressure towards the Finns to halt and had now gained the support of the USA for their efforts. It was not expedient for the Finns to cut US war material deliveries on the Murmansk railroad.

Mannerheim confidentially informed Siilasvuo (commander of the Finnish forces near Loukhi who operated under the German command) on 6.11. that capture of Loukhi was not inline with the interests of the state. This dropped the ball on Siilasvuo who could not inform his superiors (von Falkenhorst, German general) or his subordinates of the reasons for his actions. He gave on 11.11. officially the order to halt the offensive claiming the reason to be high number of losses (high casualties were not a lie, but they were not exactly that high). Order commanded the Finnish forces to stop the offensive actions on 17.11. apparently for military reasons but in practice for political reasons.

Just to clarify, dates are in dd.MM.(yyyy) format.

As to the attack towards Leningrad. What Otto_Valkamo posted is on the mark. However there were even more problems. Already on 13-15 September (i.e. when the offensive phase on the Karelian Isthmus had already ended) a large number of Finnish soldier refused to cross the Rajajoki (Border River, Russian: Sestra) to replace the forces already deployed on the other side. 48th Infantry Regiment (JR48) was supposed to relieve the forced of the 28th Infantry Regiment (JR28) at that time. Of the 2nd Battlation of JR48 nearly two hundred men simply refuse to cross the river. Despite of attempts by the regimental commander to get them to cross it still 83 men refused. They were disarmed and were given prison sentences.

This was not an isolated incident. Similar refusals occurred also when crossing the pre-Winter War borders in the Olonets Karelia, and perhaps most notably when the Finns crossed the Svir River at the Onega end. Men deliberately prevent the crossings on 4th and 5th of October. Replacing the attacking battalion resulted in the same refusal. On 6th the troops finally do cross the river. This is kinda the other side of the coin of the Finnish conscript army which allowed for high initiative and independence for operations. The further the troops advanced from what they perceived as having justification for the worse the morale got and outright refusals started to occur. So even if there would have been political will to attack Leningrad it is highly doubtful that the troops would have actually done so.

Especially the offensive operations south of Svir were really difficult for the Finns. This lead to the instance where field courts martial even condemned two Finnish soldiers to be executed/shot (AFAIK the scene from the Unknown Soldier book/movies is based on this) due to refusal to obey orders. This occurred during the Finnish counterattack to retake the village of Gora south of Svir in December 1941 after the ‘Siberian’ division had captured it couple of days earlier.

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I think it was 2 siberian “elite” divisions, that fought in the Gora village and surrounding hills were the 142nd guards rifle and 159th infantry shock division? They were mentioned in Jarkko Koukkonen’s Kylmä Helvetti, but I read it a year ago or so, so I do not remember.