Why didn't Stalin completely annex Finland, even though it's alignment with Germany was clearly inevitable?

Was just wondering why the Red Army didn’t completely occupy Finland after breaking the Mannerheim line?


Well, one, there was a crisis of leadership after this epic failure, and if Stalin had sought to annex Finland, the Finns would have kept fighting the way they were good at: guerrilla attacks. Also there was a high likelihood this would bring in Sweden, Norway and the Entente for reasons mentioned in the winter war episodes.

It’s like when you try and pet a parrot and it bites the shit out of your hand. You are massively bigger than the bird and you could crush it’s hollow bones easily. However, not only will you sustain more injury, you’ll also look like a completely unhinged psycho in a moment of impairment. So you exit as gracefully as you can and bide your time until you’re healed or at least bandaged up.


As said, many reasons. When the Winter War ended the approaching spring would have melted the frost and made roads impassable for heavy Soviet units. Britain and France threatened to attack. Breaching of the Mannerheim line did not break the Finnish resistance. So outcome would have been uncertain. During the summer of 1940 Stalin had his hands full in making sure the illegal occupations and annexations of the Baltic states went through without a hitch - and by autumn Germans already had a presence in Finland. Molotov’s meeting with Hitler is rather telling of what the Soviets thought of this.


Hey could you link to the WW2 in real time video about that Hitler/Molotov meeting?


I’m not sure i follow, but here are the related episodes:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GxAafDtRluQ (November 16 1940)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1exmY_DIjY0 (November 23 1940)

If you read book sources some of them even state that it was Hitler (or Fuhrer) extending his umbrella to protect Finland.


I’ll write in a bit more detail… Finland’s alignment with Germany was far from ‘clearly inevitable’ immediately after the Winter War. In fact Finland did not particularly appreciate Germany following the German decisions taken during the Winter War. Germans had helped the Soviets far more than what they did the Finns and even proposed using the German supply ships to resupply at sea the Soviet submarines hunting the merchant vessels headed to or from Finland (worth noting that the Soviets did not apply prize rules). Finland tried to take part to a defensive pact together with Scandinavian countries but the Germans and the Soviets objected to this. Then the Germans captured both Denmark and Norway. At this time Finns and Swedes tried to form essentially an union but again this didn’t fit the Soviet plans so it too was blocked. Germans were more like the last straw. In my opinion, had the Soviets not pushed Finland that strongly in 1940 there might still have been a chance that Finland would not have taken part to the war in 1941-44.

Mind you all this occurred while the Soviets were interfering with Finnish internal politics by demanding ministers to resign, readjusted the border (for example at Enso), shot down Finnish civilian airliner (Kaleva), tried to blackmail political concessions by withholding food shipments, and so on. Finally in autumn the Germans offered to release interned shipments, and even sell (captured) weapons to Finns in exchange for among other things Finns allowing Germans to form supply route through Finland to Northern Norway. At which point Finns pretty much just asked ‘where do i sign’. You got more weapons, more food, a trading partner, and a whole bunch of German soldiers which acted as a great counterweight and tripwire against the Soviets.

All in all this means that Finland’s alignment with Germany was not clearly inevitable until in the autumn of 1940. Even then the Soviets believed or hoped that the Germans would abide by their deal which split the Eastern Europe into the spheres of interest. The German involvement actually seems to have come as a bit of a shock and surprise to the Soviets.


Because it would’ve been a complete disaster for the USSR. It would’ve been worn down through guerilla warfare, plus wouldve alienated the International community away from the Soviets which was already occurring with Stalin’s annexation of the Baltic states. And Finnish alignment with Germany wasn’t inevitable, in fact had the Soviets not attacked, Finland would never have felt the need to join Berlin in attacking Russia.


Actually Stalin attacked in Winter to ensure the British/Frenchcould not intervene due to an almost complete lack of.daylight(as they did at the end of World War 1. The fear made sense. Anyone wh has been up to that otherwise lovely area can attest. Als the Germans were in Finland end of WW1 so snatching it from them made sense.

While TG an many other historians claim the Winter War was a disaster there are a few points to add IMO:
1 Stalin didn’t care about losing more troops than the enemy as long as the mission got accomplished.

2 Stalin didn’t want to get sucked into war with either Germany or The French.and British Empires, See WW1 again.

3 The Soviets WON the Winter War, not on number of deaths point but they accomplished their mission.

4 Leaving a rump buffer State likely would away a pretext for the British to invade in spring/summer 1940.

these four points only make sense when NOT Reading history backwards. Stalin did expect Germany NOT to redo the WW1 2front War and Churchill was involved in the World War 1 Allied interventon (many Russians still call it invasion). Of course Stalin predicted the future incorrectly but the war came to Scandinavia in Spring 1940 with daylight hours.

Disclaimer: Yes Stalin was a horrible genocidal scumbag. But he also could think ruthless strategy and did understand the Season effects.

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Quite of few problems with that argument. Germans were no longer in Finland in 1939. In fact they left in quite a hurry late in the 1918. Also it was the Soviet action against Finland which lead to the British and the French planning to intervene against the Soviet Union so you have got your chronology in wrong order and therefore your argument also breaks causality.

  1. Except the mission was not accomplished. Just because the Soviets claimed to have wanted the border areas the captured Soviet orders, Soviet formation of puppet government, orders not to cross accidentally into Sweden, continued Soviet actions against Finland in 1940-41 all indicate that the Stalin’s actual mission (included in orders) was to capture whole of Finland.

  2. Problem is that the war itself created the threat for that. It did not remove it but caused that threat to be present.

  3. The USSR won but did not achieve what it set to achieve. There are multiple reasons why the Soviets failed in that. Approaching rasputitsa/kelirikko and threat of the Allied intervention against the USSR.

  4. No. It was the Winter War which created the threat of intervention. Also why would Finland, which was unaligned, allow the British to invade via Finland - unless of course the Soviets invaded first? You are aware of the actual (not the one presented in Soviet propaganda) political situation in Finland in 1939?

Your points do not make any sense when read in the context.


Thanks for arguments, you made some good points but I am not entirely convinced.
Point 1

Very good point:
Well a lot of this depends on mindreading Stalin as he did change his mind. The orders to his troops might not be perfect evidence as even if he wanted an eventual buffer state he wouldn’t put it in the soldiers orders. (Lets fight for mother Russia until we made Finland into a small buffer state is not very motivating. Fact is that the peace agreement created a sort of buffer state. And helped protecting Russian borders and Britain and Germany invading Finland. Hence the 1940 peace treaty. Fact is he took a lot of territory without getting into a war. (more on point 2). But I agree it that it went a lot worse than he must have expected, thanks for bringing that up.

Point 2:
M text is important here
“2 Stalin didn’t want to get sucked into war with either Germany or The French and British Empires, See WW1 again.”

your reply:

Germany for one was a threat to Russia before the Winter war obviously, Stalin perceived the British Empire as a threat as he and Churchill war both in very senior positions during the intervention.

Hitler for one would have gone for war against the Soviet Unit, with or without the Winter War. The Winter War based on my knowledge did NOT create the threat to Russia/Finland. If you have proof that the threat from German was created because of the Winter War as per your threat argument let us know please.

As with Great Britain. I think I need to expand on the “lack of daylight argument”. Yes the invasion of Finland increased the threat from Churchill who hated the Bolshiviks and invaded before end of WW1. However the Royal Navy and the Royal Airforce could not reasonably intervene when their was hardly any daylight. The can’t project airpower, the weather is lousy and they would have to land up North. Stalin thus pre-empted that move by attacking in Winter.

Point 3

That they won and kept Britain and Germany from intervening seems a pretty good score. And like you state they WON. (sadly on a personal note)

Point 4

"Finland, which was unaligned, allow the British to invade via Finland "
Why do you think the British Empire would have asked for permission. I am not sure if they got permission from someone in 1917 to invade Russian territory? (I could be wrong here, help appreciated. There are lot of examples of British interventions in history. (and people read history books).

See previous argument, the British Empire could not intervene in Winter.

A questions:
" You are aware of the actual (not the one presented in Soviet propaganda) political situation in Finland in 1939?"

OK in what whay would the political situation inside Finland be relevant? This is a genuine question as I don’t know everything?

Best Regards,
And thanks again for the reply.

However that alone shows that the Soviet goals were not in any way limited to the border areas they claimed to be interested in. Instead the goals – per captured orders – indicate they were far deeper and extensive. Also the war failed in all points you are trying to present. The Winter War itself was the main cause for the Continuation War which allowed the Germans to have access to the Russian territories past the Finnish borders. That was a direct consequences of the Winter War, without the Winter War that in all likelihood would not have happened. So again, the war did not protect Russia’s borders but instead only create increased threat to them. Keep in mind that there is absolutely no reason to imagine (understanding the political situation in Finland) how Finland could have become involved in the WW II without the Winter War. Which would have kept those very borders safe.

The Soviet Union and the Nazi Germany had signed the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact prior to the Winter War. So it clearly was not a threat at the time. Additionally the Soviet propaganda switched instantly from blaming ’pro-German’ relations to blaming ’pro-British’ relations indicating that it was all just a fraudulent claim by the Soviets. I didn’t (yet) mention that the Winter War would have increased chances of Germany going to war but it did greatly increase chances of the British intervention. After all at the time the Allies saw the USSR as allied with the Nazis and attack against the Nazis’ supplies and means of supply & trade (i.e. against the material the USSR was transporting to the Nazis) increased on its own part the chance of intervention.

On its own the Winter War did affect the German opinion of their chances of taking on the USSR since the USSRs performance in the Winter War was abysmal. Aircraft could and did operate throughout the Winter War so the lack of daylight hours was not that big of a thing. Also most of the Finland do not go through the polar night, just reduced daylight hours and by the time the UK would have intervened it was already fairly close to march equinox which would have started to turn that matter upside down. Additionally the main intervention was apparently planned to take place on Caucasus where that is not an issue at all.

They still failed to fulfill their actual goals. So that argument is moot. Also the Nazis were at the time allied with the Soviets and even proposed using the German supply ships on the Baltic sea to enable the Soviet submarines to sink more of the unescorted and unarmed Finnish mechant vessels. And it likely was the threat of the Allied intervention which forced the Soviets to agree to the peace (for now, since their plans of overtaking the whole of Finland clearly still continued).

In 1917 the British intervention occurred directly in the Russian territory. It did not happen through Finland. It was the British (and other allies, like Serbs IIRC) and British sponsored forces which in fact opposed Finns in early 1918. Finland on the other hand saw itself being in a limited conflict with the Soviets in 1918 because of the open Soviet support in both weapons and troops against the elected Finnish government (not to mention how the Soviets incitement & sponsoring was a driving cause of the Finnish Civil War in the first place).

Later in 1918-19 the Finnish government did allow the British forces to operate from the Finnish territory. Also there were the expeditions to the Karelia however the Finnish government was not involved – Finnish volunteers however were. It is worth remembering that the Tarto treaties of 1920 are known as Tarto peace treaties. So it was a rather different situation and uncomparable to the 1939. Reasons why forcing the intervention would not have been practical are in the last section.

It is a genuine question since the Soviet story of the Winter War tries extremely desperately to render a picture of Finland as a country which was eager for war, where fascist and nationalistic groups were running rampart and which was open to be allied and offer bases or staging ground for some sort of ’imperialistic powers’ (Germany, Britain, or USA, depending on the Soviet mood). It is a nonsensical claim if you are aware of the situation in Finland.

Finland had parliamentary elections in July 1939 (200 representatives). The Social Democratic Party (workers party) won 85 of the seats, Agrarian League (farmers party) got 56 of the seats. Which already makes it 141. On the other hand the Patriotic Peaples Movement (sort of extreme right, or proto fascist in a certain sense) got just 8 of the seats. Both the SDP and AL were opposed to any sort of aggression (parts of the SDP were downright pacifistic). Both were committed to the idea of Nordic Neutrality. Government was headed by (Aimo) Cajander who was against militarization (or even funding military) and drove strongly towards neutrality.

Against this backdrop the idea that the Germans of the British could have just come in and started a war is a nonsensical idea. Forcing any of major (constitutional changes) would have required 5/6 majority in the parliament and even the SDP alone could have (or rather ”would have”) blocked anything which threatened peace. On the other hand forcing the way would have been rather tricky since to reach Finland from either of those directions would have in practice (due to the abysmal condition of transport network) required access via Baltic. And the one branch of the Finnish military that was in good condition (due to being captured from the Russians) was the Finnish coastal defenses. Additionally seas freezing over would have cut any forces in Finland out from their main base of support in the winter (icebreakers were not able to keep seaways open throughout the year at that time).