It was not to prevent Soviet conquest but to win back territories lost to the USSR, writes Geoffrey Roberts
Joseph Stalin. ‘In 1944-1945 the Red Army could have occupied Finland with impunity, but Stalin chose not to.’ Photograph: Hulton Deutsch/Corbis via Getty Images
Zofia Nowinska (Letters, 16 February) writes that “the consequences of being conquered by Stalin were much worse (for Finns) than being an ally of Hitler, so they chose the lesser evil”. In fact, Finland allied itself with Nazi Germany during the second world war not to prevent Soviet conquest but to win back territories lost to the USSR as a result of the winter war of 1939-40. The peace treaty that ended the war in March 1940 left Finnish independence intact. It was the reckless act of joining the Nazi attack on the USSR that endangered Finland’s national existence and cost tens of thousands of lives. In 1944-45 the Red Army could have occupied Finland with impunity, but Stalin chose not to, mainly because Finnish leaders admitted their error and pledged neutrality and friendship with the Soviet Union. “Finlandisation”, as it was called, enabled Finland to remain free of Soviet domination and communist takeover.
Emeritus professor of history, University College Cork, National University of Ireland