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Old 02-18-2012, 10:03 AM
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Default Medic's ramblings about Finland

Okay, because there was a request for this, I'll give you guys a brief history of Finland, especially concerning the wars. Might expand this to the Twilight timeline as well - just tell me which one you'd like?

Alright. Because the early history of Finland made Finland the country it is now, I'll start there briefly. In the 12th century the Swedes invaded Finland, which was divided in to several tribal nations, as part of the Northern Crusades. The Swedes eventually conquered the whole country, losing it twice to the Russians, conquering it back the both times and holding it until 1809, when they lost it to the Russian Empire for the last time. As I've noted in some other thread, that also spelled the end of Swedish empire that had been a rather influential force around the Gulf of Finland - the Finns had fought quite a number of wars for the Swedes and gotten a reputation as hardy soldiers. Especially the Eastern Europe knew the Finnish cavalry, Hakkapeliitat (singular Hakkapeliitta), who got their name from their battlecry 'Hakkaa päälle!' (which translates best as 'Have at them!').

The Russian Tsar, Alexander I, gave Finland autonomy in 1811 and the country became the Autonomous Grand Duchy of Finland, in to which the Russian province of Vyborg was incorporated. In 1860ies a strong Finnish nationalist movement, the Fennomen, begun to emerge and the nation in itself begun to form. In 1892 the Finnish language recieved an equal status with Swedish, which had been the official language until that and been spoken by the rich and educated, while commoners in especially southern and eastern parts of the country spoke Finnish.

The famine of 1866-1868 killed about 15% of the population, which led Russian Empire to ease financial regulation on the country which in turn led to the rapid development of economy and political culture. Russians soon begun restricting the autonomy with stern hand and the Finns begun to rebel covertly. On June 16th, 1904, the Finnish Senate clerk Eugen Schauman shot the Russian General-Governor of Finland, Nikolay Bobrikov, who died in the hospital later that night. After three shots at the General-Governor, Eugen Schauman shot himself twice and died.

Despite the assassination, the universal suffrage was adopted in 1906, but with further attempts by the Russians to restrict the Finnish autonomy the relations soured even further which led to the movement for independence gaining ground quickly. Many university students from Finland travelled covertly to Germany between 1915 and 1916, where they were formed in to the Royal Prussian 27th Jäger Battalion that fought the Russians as a part of the German Army in 1916. With the Russian February and October Revolutions in 1917, the Russian forces in Finland effectively got disbanded and the Finns begun forming para-military groups to preserve peace in the country, but eventually the groups split in to two factions, the White and the Red.

When the Civil War seemed very probable, the Finnish Jägers (Jääkärit) were released from German command and returned to Finland to fight on the White Guard's side against the Red Guard. Where the White Guard was aided by Swedes and Germans, the Red Guard recieved arms from the Russian garrisons in Finland. While Finland's right-wing government declared independent from Russia on December 6th, 1917 (which became the National Day in Finland), the newly founded Russian Council of People's Commissars recognized the declaration and the new nation in December 31st. On January 27th, 1918, the country ended up in a state of civil war.

The Finnish Civil War, as most civil wars, was rather bloody with atrocities commited on both sides. It has long been a very sore spot in the Finnish history and only recently people have begun to talk about it openly. After the war ended on May 15th the same year, the White Guard had emerged victorious, communism was banned as a political movement and a chasm between the sides of the war did not show any signs of closing until the beginning of Winter War in 1939.

On next post, I'll cover the years from the Civil War until the beginning of the Winter War.

Last edited by Medic; 02-18-2012 at 11:39 AM. Reason: Added the actual text.
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Old 02-18-2012, 01:28 PM
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Good stuff, Medic. Thanks for putting this together!

Other than polite avoidance of the topic, does the Finnish Civil War have any lingering effects on modern Finnish culture or politics?

- C.
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Old 02-18-2012, 02:00 PM
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Good stuff, Medic. Thanks for putting this together!

Other than polite avoidance of the topic, does the Finnish Civil War have any lingering effects on modern Finnish culture or politics?

- C.
Unless you count the right-wing hardliners, no. Some of the Finnish rednecks tend to call everyone on the left a commie still, but after the WW2, communism is not banned anymore. Too bad, that applies to nazism - just before the previous parliamentary elections in Finland some people tried to form the Finnish National-Socialist Worker's Party, but as far as I recall, they didn't get the 5000 signatures required for forming a political party in Finland.

Most of my relatives were Reds, though more of the social democrat lines than hard-line communists. There is more to the matter in the later posts, but I can say that even though the nation pulled together regardless of political beliefs during the WW2, there are known cases of people having borne grudge towards those who fought on the other side in the Civil War even until the WW2 and acted upon those grudges when opportunity came. One such case was my maternal grandmother's brother, having been a Red in the Civil War, vanished during the war. as far as we know from the war records and some unofficial statements by men from his company, he was killed by an officer, ex-White, from the neighbouring municipality.

My generation of Finns are pretty open about the matter, but had you asked my grandmother when she was still alive, she would probably thrown you out.

Actually, after the Civil War, a huge number of Reds were interned at several garrisons (and some of them were executed), including that of Hennala in Lahti, which is in Southern Finland about 100km from the capital, Helsinki. A relative of mine, who had been Red in the war, was taken there after the fighting was over and he had surrendered, and they stood the prisoners on the field outside the old Russian-built barracks. My relative saw Whites erecting tables at the edge of the field so he went and asked if they were serving food. The reply was curt, 'No, we're cataloquing the prisoners. You are prisoner number one. Name?'. Eventually released from the prison camp, he also became the first member of the sports club 'Leppävaaran Sisu', which was a covert organization for the leftists.
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Old 02-18-2012, 10:35 PM
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Other than polite avoidance of the topic, does the Finnish Civil War have any lingering effects on modern Finnish culture or politics?
Relating to that, were the pro-Soviet Reds who created the puppet government-in-exile during the Winter War allowed into Finland after the war?
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Old 02-19-2012, 03:05 AM
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Relating to that, were the pro-Soviet Reds who created the puppet government-in-exile during the Winter War allowed into Finland after the war?
The Terijoki Government, for those who don't know what it was, was a Soviet created puppet regime headed by Otto Wilhelm Kuusinen, formed on November 30th, 1939. Kuusinen had fled Finland himself after the defeat in Civil War, during which he had created the Finnish Socialist Workers' Republic.

The whole Terijoki Government scheme was built on the hypothesis by Stalin and other Soviet leaders, the Finnish working class would welcome the Soviets as liberators from capitalist oppression, but the scheme failed as the working class Finns stood very much united behind the legal government. The name, Terijoki Government comes from the first Finnish town the Soviets captured during the war.

As to reply to the question, the men behind the Terijoki Government exiled themselves in to Soviet Union rather than returning to Finland, where they would have been put to trial on the charges of treason. While the Finnish law does not allow death penalty, it can be argued, having taken place during war time, the military law might have been used, which in turn allowed people, at the time, to be shot.

As for the Terijoki Government, it never recieved much support among even the most hardliner leftists. Soviets did create The Army of Terijoki, which was supposed to include only Finnish speaking and Finnish looking troops, but since they were in short supply and generally unwilling, the Soviets added troops from even as far as Ukraine in to the Army. The Army of Terijoki had very little success in achieving anything.

Last edited by Medic; 02-19-2012 at 03:20 AM. Reason: Added a few details.
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Old 02-19-2012, 08:32 AM
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All of this history is fascinating. Please keep going. And thank you.
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Old 02-19-2012, 09:55 AM
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All of this history is fascinating. Please keep going. And thank you.
Agreed. Would also love to hear your thoughts on Finland in the Twilight War.
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Old 02-19-2012, 11:26 AM
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With the civil war in the past, Finland begun to construct itself as an independent nation. The atrocities during the Civil War on both sides, were still in fresh memory.

In the war and its aftermath, over 1% of the population died. The death toll was around 37,000 of which only about 10,000 died in actual combat. The Whites gathered around 80,000 Reds and people affiliated with the Reds, including women and children in to prison camps after their victory and while a few thousands of them were released rather soon, many died of starvation and poor conditions. Slowly released from prisons, the last 50 Reds were released from prison as late as 1927.

With the Civil War out of the way, there was a momentary political struggle about whether the nation should become a monarchy or a republic - under pressure from Germany, the senate opted for a king, but with Germany becoming a republic at the end of World War I, the would-be king renounced The throne and a republican constitution was ratified on July 17th, 1919.

Once the republic was ratified, the nation begun to rearrange the infrastructure. Agrarian reforms broke up the large estates owned by the nobility and sold them to the ambitious peasants.

The military formed up partially on the basis of the Jägers trained in Germany prior to the Civil War and several units today consider the 27th Jäger Battalion as an important part of their inheritance. A para-military militia, Suojeluskunta (=Protection/Defense Corps), provided also great deals of military education for its members. They were given an official status of auxiliary troops of about 100,000 troops.

The Finnish Military Academy, originally formed by the Russians during their rule, was reinstated in 1919 and reserve officer education started during the early 1920ies together with NCO and branch schools. A conscript service of one year was introduced and the reservists were required to take part in refresher training every once in a while.

When the Winter War begun, the Finns fielded about 135,000 troops organized in nine divisions, increasing to about 340,000 by the end of the war. The country fielded 32 tanks and 114 aircraft, many of which were practically obsolete.

What led to the Winter War - to that we will find the answer in my next post.
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Old 02-22-2012, 01:41 PM
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The road to Winter War was paved with a number of things. Finns illegalized the Communist Party of Finland in 1931 but even earlier, the relations between Finland and Soviet Union had already been strained despite the fact, the Treaty of Tartu, which declared the Finnish-Soviet borderline and the 1932 non-aggression pact (which was reaffirmed for a period of 10 years in 1934) were signed by both countries.

In 1938, the Finnish government was approached by an agent of the NKVD, the Soviet Intelligence, stating that the Soviets did not trust the Germans and Finland replied, it was neutral and had plans to remain so. Soviets proceeded to ask for a lease agreement on some islands in the Gulf of Finland, which Finland refused. In 1939, the Nazi Germany and Soviet Union signed an non-aggression pact, the Molotov-Ribbentrop treaty, which had secret subclauses of how the Eastern Europe would be divided. The treaty gave Finland to the Soviets. As Germany attacked Poland, the Soviets made their way in to the Baltic nations, they had forced to allow Soviet military bases on their soil, as well as East Poland.

As the war in Europe spread, Finns became very cautious and begun a gradual mobilization under the guise of additional refresher training for the reserves. This was where my maternal grandfather went to, missing the birth of my mother and got back home on a leave two weeks after her birth, eventually heading back in to the service and in to the war, in which he died when my mother only two and half months old.

The Soviets on the other side of the border had already massed troops there, but the main assault force was arriving late and the invasion plans from September were set for the invasion to start in November.

In October, the Finnish government was requested to send a delegation to Moscow to discuss relinquishing several islands and part of the Karelian Isthmus to the Soviets as well as the destruction of all Finnish fortifications on the Karelian Isthmus. The Finns would have had to lease the Hanko peninsula to the Soviets for the next 30 years and practically dismantle all their defenses against the Soviets on in Finnish Karelia.

On 26th of November, artillery shells fell on the Soviet side of the border in the village of Mainila. With four dead and injuries to nine border guards the Soviets cried deception and withdrew from the non-aggression pact. It has been later concluded by both Finns and Russians, the shelling was the doing of NKVD to provide the Soviet Union a casus belli.

On 30th of November, the Soviets invaded Finland with about 450,000 men, divided in to 21 divisions. The Soviets planned to implement the Blitzkrieg-tactics the Germans had successfully used in both Poland and France, but despite the manpower ratio over 3:1 when compared to Finnish Army, the Finns were far more experienced in the winter warfare and more accustomed to the cold weather.

The Soviets had also superiority in supplies as most Finnish artillery pieces were near obsolete and had little ammunition, making it rarely capable of neither saturation nor counter-battery fire. Not all the men had even uniforms - some were only given cockade, belt and rank insignia along with the rifle.
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Old 02-23-2012, 08:43 AM
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I suppose I could find out for sure if I engaged in a bit of Google-Fu, but I suspect the last Australian Prime Minister with combat experience would have been John Gorton.
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Old 02-29-2012, 10:43 AM
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I've been a bit busy with work lately, but here we go again.

During the first battles of the Winter War, the biggest concern for the Finns was the Soviet use of tanks. As I mentioned earlier, Finland had only 32 tanks to begin with and most conscripts had never seen one live before they encountered them on the battlefield. Also, Finns were lacking anti-tank weaponry as well as anti-armour tactics, which caused some concern among the troops, but with the Soviets implementing their tanks in a frontal charge, Finns soon improvised and begun to produce Molotov Cocktails, made out of glass bottle filled with gasoline, alcohol (and often wood tar). This proved to be very efficient against the Soviet tanks.

Not only Soviet tankers used the frontal charge as tactic in assault. Finns deflected wave after wave, when Soviet infantry charged over open ground. The Soviet troops were inexperienced mostly and when led by officers who were either ardent communists and relentlessly whipped their men in to the fire or ones that were not so ardent communists, but were whipped themselves by the political officers, the Soviet charges hardly ever mounted to nothing but slaughter on their side.

Finns also had the advantage of weather. Accustomed to cold and snow and having the advantage of the terrain being mostly forest wilderness and lacking roads, they made easy work of Soviet armour even without heavy anti-tank weapons. The winter of 1939-1940 was exceptionally cold, the temperature reaching -43 centigrades (-45 Fahrenheit), the ill-equiped Soviets died of frostbite and hypotermia in numbers. Finns also had winter gear for camouflaging themselves, which made them relatively unseen.

Even if the Soviets had superiority in both number and material, Finns succeeded against them by using guerilla tactics and wearing the enemy down. The Finns cut Soviet units in to smaller sectors that were, in turn, cut in to even smaller ones and soon the Finns could attack the enemy from any and all directions. These pockets of enemy were called "motti" by the Finns.

It has been said, the Soviet soldier had no choice in the war. If he refused to fight or tried to flee, he was shot. If he tried to sneak through cover, he would freeze to death. They would not surrender either, because the Soviet propaganda machine told them, the Finns would torture them to death.

During the 1920ies, Finns had constructed the Mannerheim-line on the Karelian isthmus. It was not unlike the Maginot Line, except that it was less dense and the flanks of the fortifications were mostly protected by large bodies of water.

One of the most famous Finnish soldiers was alikersantti (junior NCO equal to corporal) Simo Häyhä, who is even today considered one of the most, if not the most successful snipers ever. He was credited with 505 confirmed kills with a rifle, using only iron sights. On top of it, he was also credited for over 200 kills with the Finnish KP/31 submachinegun. To clarify his capability, Simo Häyhä gathered the kills prior to March 6th, 1940, when he was hit by a bullet that practically destroyed his jaw. He survived the hit, regaining consciousness on March 13th, the day the peace was declared. He was promoted to vänrikki (2nd lieutanant) by Field Marshal Mannerheim. He passed away on April 1st, 2002, at the very ripe age of 96.

One of the most famous battles of the Winter War was the Battle of Raate road. On December 7th, 1939, the Soviet 163rd division captured the town of Suomussalmi, but was cut off from friendly troops and the Soviets sent the 44th Rifle Division, a unit of mostly Ukrainian troops very much unaccustomed to winter, to rescue. The Finns lost 402 men K.I.A., while the Soviet losses were between 7,000 to 9,000 killed and 1,300 captured. The battle provided much needed materiel in huge amounts for the Finnish troops including over 40 tanks and 71 artillery pieces, which came to a real need as majority of the Finnish artillery was very old pieces, mostly 1902 model 76mm gun howizers.
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Old 02-29-2012, 06:37 PM
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One of the most famous Finnish soldiers was alikersantti (junior NCO equal to corporal) Simo Häyhä, who is even today considered one of the most, if not the most successful snipers ever. He was credited with 505 confirmed kills with a rifle, using only iron sights. On top of it, he was also credited for over 200 kills with the Finnish KP/31 submachinegun. To clarify his capability, Simo Häyhä gathered the kills prior to March 6th, 1940, when he was hit by a bullet that practically destroyed his jaw. He survived the hit, regaining consciousness on March 13th, the day the peace was declared. He was promoted to vänrikki (2nd lieutanant) by Field Marshal Mannerheim. He passed away on April 1st, 2002, at the very ripe age of 96.
Why is this fellow pretty much unknown in the West, or at least here in America? And why hasn't anyone made a movie about his exploits?
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Old 02-29-2012, 07:34 PM
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Why is this fellow pretty much unknown in the West, or at least here in America? And why hasn't anyone made a movie about his exploits?
Simo Häyhä has been talked about on these forums before, and any web search focussing on military sniping records will turn up his name. I agree that a film detailing his exploits would be exceelent to see.
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Old 03-01-2012, 02:19 AM
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Simo Häyhä has been talked about on these forums before, and any web search focussing on military sniping records will turn up his name. I agree that a film detailing his exploits would be exceelent to see.
Simo Häyhä didn't even consider himself much of a hero - he was, in his own eyes, just a decent marksman and a soldier. As for why Americans have not heard of him, I can only state that I've run in to Americans, who think polar bears walk the streets of Helsinki (the Finnish capital) and that we live in igloos (and I'm not even kidding or making his up, you know). Besides, from the American point of view, he fought on the wrong side.

As for the movie, Finland was considered an Axis nation after the war and being located right next to Soviet Union, not too many films about the war were made before the fall of the Soviet Union. Though Finland was never occupied, the Soviet threat forced us to adopt appeasement policy and certain things were pretty much censored on the level of taboo. However, now that Soviet Union is no longer, HBO is making a documentary/drama, Hemingway&Gellhorn, in which Simo Häyhä will appear, portrayed by Steven Wiig.
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Old 03-01-2012, 11:21 AM
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I can only state that I've run in to Americans, who think polar bears walk the streets of Helsinki (the Finnish capital) and that we live in igloos (and I'm not even kidding or making his up, you know).
don't feel bad they think the same way about Canada too
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Old 03-01-2012, 11:45 AM
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As for why Americans have not heard of him, I can only state that I've run in to Americans, who think polar bears walk the streets of Helsinki (the Finnish capital) and that we live in igloos (and I'm not even kidding or making his up, you know).
Probably the same muttonheads that think the Earth was created 6000 years ago.

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Besides, from the American point of view, he fought on the wrong side.
That's not a valid generalization. I think that you may find that many, if not most, Americans, given a choice between fighting on the "Nazi side" and fighting on the Stalinist (Soviet) side, would choose the Nazis -- after someone explained the facts to them (most Americans being clueless about both). IMO, while the Nazis were awful, Stalin was even worse. Most history that's still being taught today glosses over the fact that Stalin killed more Russians than all the people that Hitler and his Third Reich goons did.

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As for the movie, Finland was considered an Axis nation after the war and being located right next to Soviet Union, not too many films about the war were made before the fall of the Soviet Union. Though Finland was never occupied, the Soviet threat forced us to adopt appeasement policy and certain things were pretty much censored on the level of taboo.
Hence the Cold War term "Finlandization".

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HBO is making a documentary/drama, Hemingway&Gellhorn, in which Simo Häyhä will appear, portrayed by Steven Wiig.
Great news!
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Old 03-01-2012, 01:11 PM
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That's not a valid generalization. I think that you may find that many, if not most, Americans, given a choice between fighting on the "Nazi side" and fighting on the Stalinist (Soviet) side, would choose the Nazis -- after someone explained the facts to them (most Americans being clueless about both). IMO, while the Nazis were awful, Stalin was even worse. Most history that's still being taught today glosses over the fact that Stalin killed more Russians than all the people that Hitler and his Third Reich goons did.

Hence the Cold War term "Finlandization".

Great news!
The Americans (nor British, French nor everyone and their uncle) did much to stop the Soviets in the Watch Commission, when they decided, the Finnish reserve officer training was not needed, for an example, nor when a number of Finnish politicians were ordered to be sentenced for war crimes by the Soviets by a retroactive change of Finnish law, which was clearly against both Finnish constitution and the very principles of any western legal system. So yes, I still say, Finland was on the wrong side in the war, when U.S. of A. was concerned.

As I said earlier, history is what the victors write - the losing parties hardly ever get their say.
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Old 03-01-2012, 05:08 PM
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That's not a valid generalization. I think that you may find that many, if not most, Americans, given a choice between fighting on the "Nazi side" and fighting on the Stalinist (Soviet) side, would choose the Nazis -- after someone explained the facts to them (most Americans being clueless about both). IMO, while the Nazis were awful, Stalin was even worse. Most history that's still being taught today glosses over the fact that Stalin killed more Russians than all the people that Hitler and his Third Reich goons did.
Considering the base population and the time he had to do it, Stalin's record while far from nice is probably better than the nazis's. And one can give him credit for one thing : he was fairly egalitarian in his heavy-handedness. Basicially anyone looking like he might challenge his power got a ticket for Siberia.

I would also point that even if the goulag was a far cry from a picnic, he never went for the planified industrial extermination of embarassing minorities - rather he had them displaced and spread over the USSR while planting a strong russian minority to act as a bullwark against nationalist impulses.

If you want to find worse than the Nazis, I'd rather pin that medal on Pol Pot and his Red Khmers. If you compare the damage they did with Cambodia's population, especially considering for how long they were in power, Stalin is a amateur.
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Old 03-01-2012, 05:57 PM
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Well as I've said before, I suspect that part of the reason why Stalin didn't lose any sleep at night over killing, displacing and generally mistreating large numbers of Russians was that he wasn't Russian.
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Old 03-01-2012, 07:12 PM
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Guys, really. Do we have to destroy another thread with a discussion of the Nazis' relative level of evil?

- C.
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Old 03-01-2012, 07:57 PM
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Guys, really. Do we have to destroy another thread with a discussion of the Nazis' relative level of evil?
Maybe everyone's just getting ready for Iron Sky?
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Old 03-02-2012, 01:52 PM
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don't feel bad they think the same way about Canada too

No. We think your cities have moose and sasquatch populations that outnumber the humans however.
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Old 03-03-2012, 06:00 PM
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No. We think your cities have moose and sasquatch populations that outnumber the humans however.
Moose do out number humans, but only in Newfoundland.
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Old 03-06-2012, 06:52 AM
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Moose do out number humans, but only in Newfoundland.
I note Canadian Army doesn't challenge the saying about the Sasquatch...
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Old 03-06-2012, 10:13 AM
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The Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization there are 2000 - 6000 in North America, but let not turn this in a Sasquatch/Bigfoot thread.
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Old 03-06-2012, 07:09 PM
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Medic, did the Sámi people as a group participate in the Winter War? At the time were they considered to be citizens of Finland (or did they consider themselves as such)? I'm guessing they must have participated in the war as individuals. Their arctic fieldcraft would have been superb.
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Old 03-07-2012, 12:55 AM
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Medic, did the Sámi people as a group participate in the Winter War? At the time were they considered to be citizens of Finland (or did they consider themselves as such)? I'm guessing they must have participated in the war as individuals. Their arctic fieldcraft would have been superb.
It would have been, yes, and as far as I know, they served. The thing is, though, their numbers are limited - not all those living in the Finnish Lapland are Sami. People there can also be partially or completely ethnic Finns. The Lapland was also a battlefield, though the main front was on Karelian Isthmus. The Soviets attacked with three divisions, met by two Separate Battalions (17th and 26th), Infantry Regiment 40, 7th and 9th Battalions of the "Replacement Brigade", two batteries of artillery, three Companies (10th and 11th Separate, the third one I'll dig up when I have time), and finally, Reconnaissance Group 11.

With woodless and relatively uncovered, flat terrain, defense was difficult, so the Finns used mostly guerilla tactics aided by the fact, the winters in Lapland are practically a constant night due to the location on the globe. They managed to successfully fight the Soviets with odds of 1 to 5 for the advantage of the Soviets.
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Old 03-07-2012, 05:58 PM
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Get to part about Lauri Törni (Larry Thorne) and Detachment Törni.
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Old 03-08-2012, 11:16 PM
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Get to part about Lauri Törni (Larry Thorne) and Detachment Törni.
http://www.arlingtoncemetery.net/larry-thorne.htm Arlington National Cemetery page for Thorne

http://www.themilitaryview.com/?q=node/201 US Army Lieutenant Colonel retired, Jerry Hogan's personal recollection of Thorne
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Old 03-09-2012, 01:18 AM
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I'm a bit busy with work-related stuff, but I promise, I'll give you a good deal of information about Lauri Törni (a.k.a. Larry Thorne), when I have the time.I will, however, advance chronologically with the posts...
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