By Timothy Whiteman
What may come as a surprise to many Americans is that there really was a nation that once defeated the much feared Soviet Union’s dreaded Red Army. And what may come as an additional unknown fact is that the country that beat the Russians is roughly the same size as New Mexico.
As reported by Great Britain’s The Independent newspaper, published on May 22, 2015, the tiny Scandinavian nation of Finland has sent notices to all adult males of military service age detailed instructions on what is expected if and when a national military call-up is announced. Of the 5.4 million citizens of the Suomen Tasavalta (Republic of Finland), more than 900,000 received governmental greetings in the mail.
Although certain members of the Helsinki government denying the notifications of possible mobilization has anything to do with neighboring Russian President Vladimir Putin’s recent sabre rattling in Eastern Europe, a call-up would be the first time since 1939 that the Suomis as a nation answered the call to arms. The Finnish Minister of Defense Carl Haglund took to the airwaves to deny the notifications were related to the security situation with Russia, stating “The aim of this isn’t to give out sort of message at all [to Russia].”
Putin’s former Chief Economics Adviser Andrej Illarionov claims that the Russian leader considers vast tracts of sovereign Finnish soil “should rightfully be under Russian control”. As reported, the Finns maintain a rather small full-time army, normally no bigger than a standard American brigade of 8,000 troops. However, Finland has in their constitution a provision for mandatory universal male military service.
Finland’s Defense Ministry began broadcasting an announcement to the nation, informing reservists that “We want to have a word with you,” and reminding them that “conscription is the cornerstone of Finland’s defense capability.” The announcements instructed the over 900,000 reservists specifically “which post they would be given in a crisis situation.”
Upon reaching adulthood at the age of 18, approximately 30,000 Finns are called-up annually to serve upwards of 1 year of active duty, but remain in a regular reservist status until the age of 40. Certain Finns, depending upon rank and/or military specialty, remain in the Reserve Forces until the ages of either 50 or 60.
The Finns shocked the world during the three month long Winter War of 1939-1940, when attacked by the numerically superior Soviet Union who sought to not only militarily defeat but also conquer and absorb the entire nation into the USSR. Outnumbered 4-1, the Finns used the bitter Arctic winters and heavily forested terrain to their advantage.
Using a combination of standard defense-in-depth static fortifications as well as hit-and-run tactics used by hunter-killer sniper teams on skis, the recently mobilized national army stood their ground and literally bled the invaders white. Total Finnish casualties (including civilians killed in Soviet air raids) topped out at 70,000, while the Russians suffered fully a third of a million casualties. Though losing small amounts of land in the eventual peace agreement, the Finnish nation did what few in history could do: stop the Russians.