Thursday. 09.02.2023

80 years since Winter War

This year marks the 80th anniversary of the beginning of the Winter War. The conflict started on 30 November, when the Soviet Union attacked Finland without a declaration of war, and lasted 105 days.
Finnish machine gun base during the Winter War. Photo: SA-Kuva/Finnish Wartime Photo Archive.

At the end of November, it will be 80 years since the beginning of the winter war. The Government of Finland is preparing a series of events to commemorate the anniversary.

In the secret minutes of the Treaty of Non-aggression between Germany and the Soviet Union, or the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, Finland was marked as belonging to the Soviet sphere of interest. This treaty was among the main factors that led to the breaking out of the Winter War.

The war began with the Soviet invasion of Finland on 30 November 1939 and ended on 13 March 1940, after 105 days of fighting.

Defending Finland’s independence came at a heavy cost. More than 25,000 Finns died in the war effort and about 44,000 were wounded. Civilian casualties numbered more than 1,000, the Finnish Government said.

The loss of Karelia

The losses suffered by the Soviet Union in the war were substantially higher. Finland maintained its independence but had to cede 11% of its territory to the Soviet Union. In this context, the loss of the Karelia region and its capital city, Viipuri (today Viborg) is still a wound in the hearts of Finns.

About 430,000 Finns, or 12% of the population at the time, lost their homes and had to be resettled in other parts of Finland, the Government reminds.

Most of the soldiers serving in the Defence Forces during the Winter War were born before 1917, the year Finland gained independence. The oldest were born in the 19th century. In the mobilisation of October 1939, men in age groups born between 1900 and 1918 were called to service. Towards the end of the war, men from older age groups born in 1894–1899 were also recruited. 

One candle for each day of war

Memorial events will be held on the dates when the war started, 30 November 2019, and ended, 13 March 2020.

On 30 November at 11.00, to commemorate the start of the war, state leadership will lay a wreath at the National Memorial to the Winter War at Kasarmintori Square in Helsinki.

After that, 105 candles will be lit at the memorial, one for every day of the war, to honour the Finns, volunteers from abroad and friends of Finland from all over the world who lived at the time of the war. This event will be open to the public.

On 13 March 2020, an Ecumenical Memorial Service will be held at Helsinki Cathedral at 11.00. State leadership will be attending the service, the Government said.

80 years since Winter War