This is a story about the Winter War (Talvisota) between Finland and The Soviet Union from November 1939 to March 1940, three months after the start of World War II.
Imagine you live in a neighborhood. On one side of your house are two neighbors, the Swedes and the Norwegians. They are nice enough. They sometimes borrow your tools and don’t give them back until you ask, and their kids are always running through your yard, but generally, they don’t cause too many problems for you.
On the other side is a family that took over the whole rest of the neighborhood. Their property is so big it covers nearly a dozen time zones. They call themselves the USSR. Their place is always teeming with people. The head of the family is a brute and rules with an iron fist. You suspect that they might be some sort of a cult with a twisted adoration for their leader.
You don’t really like the USSR, but you get along well enough, until one day, they demand that you give them some of your property, even though the lot lines are clearly drawn and registered with the city. Having the whole rest of the neighborhood is not enough for them though. They want your property, too.
You rightly refuse to give them any of your land, and one day in the middle of winter, they attack you. They keep you up all night by throwing bombs into your yard. Your family is very small. You don’t even know how many people actually live next door, but you know their family is a hell of a lot bigger than yours. They have thirty times as many aircraft and a hundred times as many tanks. They have more supplies, more people, more fighting experience; more of everything.
You run over to your next door neighbors, the Swedes and the Norwegians, and ask for help. Before the USSR demanded your land, you had conversations over the fence with the Swedes about how terrible the USSR was and something should be done to stop them. Your next door neighbors say they will help you, but they only send their cousins Sven and Arne who volunteered. They come over of their own free will to help. You can’t really blame your neighbors since they have about as much fighting experience as you do and nobody wants to take on the USSR unless they have no other choice.
You plead your case at the city council meeting. The city council is appalled when they hear what’s going on. Of all the nerve! That something like this should happen in our peaceful community… The city council declares the USSR’s action illegal. You are heartened, but you soon find out that, besides putting some words on paper, they won’t do anything to stop it. They don’t even send a cop car over. They do send you some supplies though.
At the city council meeting, the whole city hears of your plight and wants to help. Your rich Uncle Sam lives in another state. When he hears what happened, he says he will send over some supplies, but he’s too busy preparing for battles of his own with the Germans and the Japanese to do much more. Uncle Sam is secretly hoping that the USSR will throw all of its might behind helping him with his own fight, so he doesn’t really want to get on their bad side by helping you. Some of your family members who used to live with you, but now live with Uncle Sam, do come back to help though.
Your neighbors, the English, the French and the Italians, are in much the same situation as Uncle Sam; dealing with the Germans.They tell you that they will send a Franco-British military expedition, but for all their talk of helping, the Swedes and the Norwegians won’t let the military expedition come through their yards. They can’t get into your yard to help.
As a last resort, you talk to the neighbor down the street that everyone else is fighting. These people are scary and you don’t like them at all, but what are you to do? They don’t like you either, but they hate the USSR more. You need the help. So, you run over to the Germans and ask. They actually send you equipment. Granted, it’s ancient old, but you take it anyway because any help is good help.
So, it’s your family, your next door neighbors Sven and Arne, your cousin Lasse from America, and a few other people from Denmark, Italy, Hungary and Estonia, fighting against a whole organized army of cultish people next door. You are outnumbered 4 to 1. Your ragtag group may be small in number, but they’re plucky. What they lack in numbers, they more than make up for in perseverance. They refuse to give in, even against insurmountable odds.
On your property line, your general, Carl Gustaf Mannerheim, sets up a barricade. Since you can’t just go out and buy supplies, you have to get creative. You fill bottles with gasoline, stick rags in them, light them on fire and throw them at your neighbors. You name it the Molotov cocktail after your neighbor’s general. You take socks, fill them with explosives, cover them in axle grease and stick them onto tank treads. You call them sticky bombs. It’s dangerous guerrilla work, getting in that close to your enemy, but they’re not expecting it and it works.
You know the terrain better than they do, which is definitely an advantage. The members of your family are all very good cross-country skiers. They can zip in and out amongst the trees while your enemy is on foot, trying to walk through three feet of snow. It bogs them down and they don’t get very far. You manage to break up their big forces into smaller groups and encircle them. They’re sitting ducks with no way to retreat or resupply.
After months of fighting, you’ve managed to hold them off. The USSR is embarrassed since they only expected you to last a week, but your lines have held. They’ve been moved back some, but you’ve stood your ground. However, no matter how many of their soldiers you subdue, the USSR just sends in more and more and more. There are so many of them; too many of them. For all your determination and creativity in fighting, you know you can’t last much longer. You’re running out of ammunition. The USSR knows it, too.
All along, you’ve been trying to talk to the USSR and stop this foolishness, but they ignore you and keep firing. Eventually, when they know they’ve got you on the ropes, they talk to you again. The USSR demands that you give them an even bigger chunk of your property than they wanted before, and now, they also want a third of your economic assets. You don’t want to give in, but it would stop this senseless warfare and you would remain free; a smaller, but still free house.
You decide to give in because giving them a chunk of your property is better than being swallowed up altogether. Some of your family was living on that property. They move into the house with you. Some of them go off to live with your rich uncle, while others give living with the neighbors a try. It doesn’t work out too well for them. Your family is broken up now and you’ve lost a lot of property, but at least you’re still free. You still have your own address on the block.
A year and a half later, your giant neighbor attacks again in what will be called The Continuation War, but that’s a story for another time.