Thursday, August 18, 2011

Swedish Volunteers in the Russo-Finnish Winter War 1939-1940

Finland's heroic struggle to preserve independence and defend its territories, citizens, and culture against the Russian superpower to the east has been acknowledged many times, as have the bravery and resourcefulness of the Finnish troops in the 105-day conflict termed the Russo-Finnish Winter War of 1939-40 (hereafter shortened to the Winter War). But the story of the more than 8,000 Swedish volunteers who fought for Finland's cause is largely unexplored outside the borders of Sweden. The difficulty of the political situation of neutral Sweden, sandwiched between Nazi Germany and the "Russian Bear," resulted in that country having to walk a diplomatic tightrope when determining if and how it would support Finland's cause. Plans for a Swedish volunteer force were laid several months prior to the Soviet Union's invasion of Finland on November 30, 1939. The day of the attack when the Red Army violated Finland's borders and the Soviet air force bombed Helsinki, volunteer recruitment centers opened within Sweden.