The Winter War

On November 30, 1939, the Soviet Red Army launched an invasion of Finland.

Finnish Soldiers pose for a photo, 1939. Note the improvised snow uniforms and mittens.

The Winter War was the result of an attempted land grab by the Soviet government in 1939, during the outbreak of World War Two. The Soviet government felt that the Finnish border was too close to the city of Leningrad, St. Petersburg, and demanded a portion of Finnish territory to protect the city. The Finnish government had achieved its independence from the Russian Empire during the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917 and felt that ceding land to the Soviet Union would endanger the integrity of Finland. Finland denied the Soviets the portion of land they desired. On November 30, 1939, the Soviet Union invaded with 45,000 troops and began to conquer Finnish territory and attempted to establish a puppet government. It seemed as if the Soviets had decided to attempt to reclaim the whole nation rather than the strip of land they initially requested.

This war had consequences far beyond the borders of Finland, and attracted the attention across the free world. Watch below for a simple reduction of the international political situation.

Finland was in dire need of aid to prevent a famine and fight back the Soviet invasion.

On December 20, 1939, in New York, former president Herbert Hoover created the Finnish Relief Fund to raise funds and provide material aid to Finland.

Left to right: former President Herbert Hoover, Doctor Hendrik Willem van Loon, and New York Mayor Fiorello La Guardia.

The Finnish Relief Fund operated from 1939-1946. This program provided relief for Finnish civilians. Since the war took place in Finnish territory, its citizen’s lives were greatly impacted. They were running out of food and basic resources that they needed to survive. Hoover had a significant impact on the American effort to send aid to Finland. Hoover’s effort influenced not only the people of the United States who provided the aid, but he influenced the whole world to donate which lead to Finland successfully beating back the Soviet Union.

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