During the Second World War Finland found herself stuck between two dictatorships. Stalin demonstrated his hostility during the Winter War of 1939-40 and continued to apply pressure on the Finns during 1940-41, making more demands. Hitler had exposed the Finns to Stalin's greed by allocating Finland to the Soviet sphere of influence in the Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact of 1939, but his dramatic victories during 1940 removed any chance that the Western powers could protect the Finns against the Soviets. The Finns thus found themselves with a hostile Soviet Union to their east and south, neutral Sweden to the south-west and German occupied Norway to their north. Under these circumstances it is hardly surprising that the Finns decided that their best hope of remaining independent was to seek German support.
As a result the Finns became involved in Hitler's invasion of the Soviet Union, becoming the only democracy to fight as Germany's ally during the Second World War (although technically they were co-belligerents rather than official allies this was a rather unconvincing diplomatic cover story). Lunde's book looks at the background to this 'Continuation' War, Finnish motives for fighting, what they hoped to achieve, the troubled nature of the alliance between a dictatorship and a democracy with a tradition of free speech and free press and the actual course of the fighting. Key to the course of the war in the north was were Finn's limited war aims - they never seem to have understood that their only chance of retaining the land they had regained in the early fighting was if the Germans won, and so held back in the fighting around Leningrad and in attempts to cut the Murmansk railway.
This is a fascinating look at an important but little known area of fighting during the Second World War. Lunde has produced an excellent history of the crucial fighting in the north, the often confused political and diplomatic background and the troubled relationship between the Finns and their German allies.
1 - From Flirtation to Coalition
2 - Plans, Preparations and Deployments
3 - Operation Platinfuchs
4 - Operations in Central Finland
5 - The Finnish Offensives
6 - Coalition Problems and Soviet Counteroffensives
7 - Aborted Plans and Dashed Hopes, 1941-42
8 - Front Without Combat Activity - January 1943-June 1944
9 - Soviet Summer Offensive - June 9-21, 1944
10 - Soviet Offensive Ends - Finland Leaves the War
11 - From Friction to Fighting
12 - The 20th Mountain Army's Katabasis
Author: Henrik O. Lunde
Year: 2013 edition of 2011 original