War Against Finland And Japan
War Against Finland
The Soviet Union was involved in two separate conflicts with Finland during the Second World War. The Winter War from November 1939 – March 1940 and The Continuation War From June 1941 – September 1944. The Continuation War forced The Red Army to divert resources to the northeast during World War Two and provided incentive for Finland to work with Germany in The Siege of Leningrad and other situations on the Eastern Front.
The wars were fought over territory near Leningrad that was part of Russia before the revolution but was lost when Finland declared independence in 1917. The Winter War began when Soviet forces invaded Finland in November 1939. The Soviets had more men and vehicles but were unorganized due to Stalin’s purge of military leadership in 1936. The invasion was condemned by The League Of Nations. Finland received humanitarian aid from the US but no international military support. The Finns lasted longer than expected but were forced to cede valuable territory in The Moscow Peace Treaty after 105 days of fighting.
The Soviet Union considered The Continuation War part of the Great Patriotic War against Germany and its allies while Finland viewed it as a separate military engagement. Finland tightened diplomatic relations with Germany between wars, hoping to gain back territory lost in The Winter War. Hostilities resumed on June 25th, 1941 after the Nazis invaded The Soviet Union on June 22nd. Though Finland did support the Germans in conducting the Siege of Leningrad they were significantly less brutal than The Nazis and concentrated their efforts in the disputed Karelia Territory. The Continuation War is generally divided into 3 phases, the Finnish offensive, a stalemate or trench warfare portion, and a Soviet offensive.
Finland considered itself a co-belligerent with rather than an ally of Nazi Germany. They received tactical support in exchange for allowing German troops to operate within their borders. Finland began seeking an end to the war after Germany’s loss at The Battle Of Stalingrad in 1943. The Continuation War ended in September 1944 when an armistice was signed between Finland and the USSR. The war formally concluded by the 1947 Paris Peace Treaty. Making peace with The Soviet Union created tension between Finland and The Nazis. This resulted in The Lapland War from 1944-45, between Finland and Germany.
War Against Japan
A Japanese patrol in Manchuria during the 1930s
Tensions between The Soviet Union and Japan can be traced to the Russo-Japanese War in 1905. Japan was part of a coalition of countries that occupied Vladivostok from 1918-1922 and only formally recognized The Soviet Union in 1925. The Japanese invaded Manchuria in 1931 and established a puppet state called Manchukuo in 1932, encroaching if not crossing the Soviet border. This lead to the Battle of Lake Khasan in 1938, where no territory changed hands but animosity lingered after a month of fighting and posturing.
The Battle of Khalkhin Gol from May to September 1939 was more significant. It started with a border skirmish in Siberia, and resulted in the Japanese being severely defeated by Soviet forces. The Red Army was commanded by General Georgy Zhukov, who debuted techniques against the Japanese that would later be successful against the Germans in World War Two. The resounding defeat at Khalkhin Gol motivated Japan into singing a nonaggression pact with The Soviet Union in 1941.
Stalin promised the other allied leaders at The Yalta Conference in February 1945 that he would attack Japan once Germany surrendered. The Soviet Union invaded Manchuria on August 9th of that year and remained in Japanese territory until September 2nd. Soviet forces liberated Pyongyang and occupied the northern half of the Korean Peninsula, leading to the Korean War with the American held south in 1950.